Wednesday, February 28, 2024

‘AIDS awareness poor in M’laya’

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From Our Special Correspondent

 NEW DELHI: The HIV+ cases are rising in Meghalaya, recent reports have said but to add to the quandary, the State is also in the lowest rung as far as awareness about the dreaded disease is concerned, according to an official survey.

The hill state has over 400 HIV+ registered cases, according to the Inter Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC), Meghalaya, and that it needs more of “HIV sensitive” policies and programmes. The general opinion is that awareness creation is of paramount importance so that young people learn to protect themselves from HIV-AIDS.

The level of awareness among men is considerably higher than women. Meghalaya, however, is one of those states where awareness among both men and women is merely 62-63 per cent only next to Jharkhand which is at the bottom of the list.

Interestingly, in neighbouring Manipur and Mizoram and far away Kerala and Tamil Nadu more than 90 per cent of individuals are aware of AIDS. High literacy rate and concerted campaigns have contributed to increased levels of awareness in these states.

India’s first-known HIV infection was diagnosed in Chennai and this is reflected in the high level of awareness among men and women in Tamil Nadu. Delhi, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashra follow these states with more than 80 per cent awareness among women and at the other end is Bihar, Rajasthan, Meghalaya and Jharkhand where awareness is very less.

Recent statistics released by the World Health Organisation show that the HIV prevalence rate in India has declined from 0.4 per cent of the population in the early 2000s to 0.3 per cent in 2009. Even so, the prevalence rate is higher than many other developing countries, like neighbouring China, where it is 0.1 per cent.

The overall HIV situation is diverse across the country, the survey said. According to the National AIDS Control Organisation, HIV prevalence has stabilised in Tamil Nadu and other southern states with a high HIV burden.

But, new areas have emerged in northern and eastern states. Chandigarh, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai have a significant population living with HIV among injecting drug users, it said.

The reasons for such prevalence vary from state to state depending on the proportion of high-risk groups. Despite consistent efforts of the government and non-government organisations, the level of awareness varies widely across states.Knowledge of AIDS increases with education and with the wealth index of the household. Television was cited as the most common source of knowledge, followed by radio among all sub-groups of the population.

Though levels of awareness need to be increased, it is equally important to clear misconceptions about the disease among the general population. Going ahead, the key to control the spread of AIDS is effective communication among high-risk groups across the country, the survey said.

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