Mumbai sees 30% drop in HIV cases in 4 years, RTI reveals
The number of new cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections in Mumbai has declined by 30.6% in the last four years, according to information released by the Mumbai Districts Aids Control Society (MDACS) in response to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by HT. From 7,526 cases of HIV infection in 2015, the numbers fell to 6,663 in 2016; 5,826 in 2017; and 5,220 in 2018. In 2019, till August, there were 3,105 reported cases of HIV infection in the city.
Dr Shrikala Acharya, additional project director of (MDACS), said, “The awareness among people has increased. People from the target intervention communities have been more proactive. We are travelling to far off areas to sensitise people about the need of taking proper protection [eg. condoms] and to avoid drugs.”
Dr IS Gilada, consultant in HIV/STDs and president, AIDS Society of India (ASI), said, “Earlier, patients would often drop out of treatment due to the side effects. But now, with the availability of better medicines, we also have options to change their line of treatment. Also, Mumbai has surgeons who are specialized on operating on HIV patients which wasn’t there 10 years ago. Due to the acceptance of the disease, patients don’t shy away from the treatment.”
Expansion of the programme to make anti-retroviral treatment (ART) – used to treat HIV and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) – available for free at government-run ART centres across the country has played a critical role in the decline in the number of AIDS-related deaths in India, said disease experts. Data released by Praja Foundation showed that the number of HIV-related deaths decreased from 2,120 in 2016-17 to 1,278 in 2018-19. From April 2016 to March 2019, around 4,894 HIV/AIDS patients died in the city, of which 170 were children.
Activist Ganesh Acharya, who has been living with HIV for 21 years, said, “In the last 10 years, HIV treatment has become community based, which has helped reach more people. Also, with the medicines available now and early detection, patients can be made ‘undetectable’ – where the level of the virus becomes so low that the patient doesn’t infect anyone else,” said Acharya.