AIZAWL, Dec 1 – Jennifer (name changed) had never even in her wildest imagination, thought that she would one day become a victim of the dreaded AIDS, because it is “the disease of drug addicts and prostitutes.” Or that was what everybody had described about the disease.
The sky literally fell on the 35-year-old housewife when she came to learn that her blood tested positive for HIV at the time of giving birth at a civil hospital where she went through integrated counseling and testing centre (ICTC).
Statistics have revealed that there could be hundreds of such women who are infected with the deadly virus through infidelity of their husbands who constitute about 80 per cent of the clientele of commercial sex workers.
According to Mizoram State AIDS Control Society (MSACS), HIV was first detected in Mizoram in 1990. Since then, 5,54,644 blood samples have been tested, of which, 13,040 were found to be HIV positive. Of the people tested so far, 1,89,177 were pregnant women who were tested at ICTC. Of these pregnant women, 1,272 were found to be positive for HIV.
Interview with sex workers in Mizoram conducted by New Life Home Society, an Aizawl-based NGO, had revealed that about 80 per cent of the CSWs’ clients were married men, majority of them from rural areas who occasionally come to Aizawl to draw salaries and bills for contract works.
MSACS said that unprotected sex is the commonest mode of HIV transmission in Mizoram with 68.75 per cent (8,091 people) of HIV positives getting infected through sexual contact.
According to social workers, many contracted the virus from promiscuous sex. Interestingly, only two-thirds of them are commercial sex workers, the rest being “normal people”.
“A respectable person in your neighbourhood who lives a normal life, and who even attends the church regularly could be an HIV positive. Such persons spread the disease to their unsuspecting wives and further to their offspring,” said a social activist, who did not want to be named.
This also made parent-to-child transmission the third commonest mode of HIV spread in the State with 200 newborns found to be positive for HIV so far through the ICTC set up in district civil hospitals.
While 2,924 people, including 434 women, contracted HIV through injecting drug use the cause of infection of the remaining 274 people was unknown. There were 65 HIV positives among MSM, constituting 0.55 per cent of HIV positive in Mizoram.
Among the HIV positive, 3,320 men and 1,662 women, (constituting 42.34 per cent) are from 25-34 age group. There are 444 HIV positive, including 214 males and 230 females below 14 years of age. There are 1,526 male and 1,043 female HIV positive who belong to 15-24 age group. There are 3,214, including 2,018 men and 1,196 women in 34-49 age group, while the remaining 559, including 373 men and 186 women are aged over 50.
MSACS said 9,258 HIV positive in Mizoram have been registered in ART centres. Of these, 5,798 have completed ART and 4,466 are undergoing treatment.
The first blood test for HIV in Mizoram was conducted in October 1990 in which 30 people were tested of which five were found to be positive. The five of them were injecting drug users.
MSACS said that HIV transmission through sharing syringes and needles is almost kept under control, thanks to its needle syringe exchange project (NSEP).
(Source: the Assam Tribune)
(Image: Internet sources/Representation)