VIJAYAWADA: Andhra Pradesh posted the second highest number of fresh HIV cases in India when the country was reeling under the Covid-19 pandemic.According to the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), 9,521 HIV positive cases were reported across the State in 2020-21. Over 85,000 people contracted HIV due to unprotected sex in the country in 2020-21. Maharashtra topped the list with 10,498 HIV/AIDS cases.
The number is alarming even as there is a significant drop in HIV transmission in the State, which reported 3,18,814 cases in the past decade. The data was revealed in a NACO response to an RTI application by a Madhya Pradesh-based activist, Chandra Shekhar Gaur. As per the India HIV Estimation-2019 report by the NACO, the HIV prevalence among the 15-49 age group has been declining in India since 2000.
According to the report, the HIV prevalence in the 15-49 age group in AP is higher than the national average with 0.69 percent. AP is followed by Meghalaya with 0.54%, and Telangana in third place with 0.49%. There were 23.48 lakh PLHIV (people living with HIV) in India in 2019. Maharashtra had the highest number of PLHIV 3.96 lakh and Andhra Pradesh was second with 3.14 lakh. There were 69,220 new HIV infections in the country in 2019. This translates to 190 new daily infections, and eight new hourly infections.AP reported only 2,920 HIV cases in 2019.
Nationally, 20,052 pregnant women required antiretroviral therapy (ART) for prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV. Of them, 6.76% were in AP (fifth in the country). The National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) 2019-20 stated that 24.6 % of women — 29.1% in urban areas and 22.6% in rural areas —in the 15-49 age group in the State have comprehensive knowledge of HIV/AIDS. In the NFHS-4, it was 29%. It shows a 4.4 % decline. When it comes to men, 38.6% of them — 47.1% in urban areas and 34.7% in rural areas— have comprehensive knowledge of HIV/AIDS. As per the NFHS-5, 63.0% of women in the State (70.8% in urban and 59.7% in rural areas) knew that consistent condom use can reduce the chances of contracting HIV/AIDS . It was only 57.5% as per the 2015-16 report (NFHS -4). When it comes to men, 82.6 % — 88.4% in urban and 80% in rural— know that consistent condom use can reduce the chances of contracting HIV/AIDS. As per the NFHS-4, it was 83.4%.
However, the NFHS report stated that there is a steady decline in new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths in AP. The estimated number of new Infections declined from 8,318 in 2013-14 to 6,545 in 2017, a dip of 38%. Similarly, AIDS-related deaths declined by 46% — from 15,372 in 2013-14 to 8,460 in 2017, primarily due to the expansion of the ART programme.
The key reason for a significant decline in new infections and deaths is the increase in awareness among people about reducing the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS through the use of condoms and prevention strategies for HIV/AIDS transmission from mother to child.On an average, the State has 1,960 HIV-positive pregnant women in a year who require prophylaxis to prevent transmission of the virus to their babies. This accounts for almost 9% of India’s PMTCT needs. There is a 63% decline in the PMTCT needs from 2013-14 to 2017-18. Jagadish Kumar Goddanti, a social development consultant, said that more strategies need to be adopted to create awareness among all sections of people on means to prevent the transmission of HIV aids.