CHENNAI: For once, the United Nation’s AIDS report actually agrees with the numbers put out by the government. And while there is plenty to cheer about with the number of AIDS-linked deaths dropping by 38 per cent and new infections declining by 19 per cent, people who have been working to drive these numbers down are cautious about celebrating now.
“The numbers did go down till 2011, but then we have been faced with a plateau as far as the prevalence rate in Tamil Nadu is concerned,” said Rama Pandian, founder-president of the Tamil Nadu Network for Positive People, an NGO working with HIV positive people, “And there Is a certain complacency that has crept in and we are worried that it will lead to an increase in HIV numbers again,” he added.
Tamil Nadu is believed to have between 1.82 lakh and 2.04 lakh people suffering from HIV, according to numbers from various surveys. With a concerted effort by the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society (TANSACS), several partner NGOS and foreign aid, AIDS control programmes set up centres to increase access for HIV patients to antiretroviral drugs. UN’s Gap Report said 20-39 per cent had access to the drugs in 2013.
But now, most of them are fretful that the support structure is coming unstuck. Ever since the numbers have begun declining, foreign aid has dried up leading to the closure of several NGOs. “The governments are not taking it seriously and foreign organisations have taken their funding to Africa because the problem is bigger there,” said the founder of an NGO which wound up last October. The shortage of corporate funding has pushed the remaining NGOs to compete with each other for existence.
TANSACS officials, for their part, said all is hunky dory in the State, adding that, they were marching towards bringing the prevalence rate even lower.