Bihar records 8000 new cases of HIV this year, ranks 3rd in Country


Bihar records around 8,000 new cases of people living with HIV (PLHIV) annually and ranks third, after Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, in new HIV/AIDS infections every year, despite a 27% reduction in new infection rate from 2010, said Dr S Siddhartha Shankar Reddy, health specialist of UNICEF Bihar, on the sidelines of an HIV/AIDS awareness event. Youngsters accounted for higher incidence of PLHIV (people living with HIV) in the state, according to the last sentinel survey undertaken by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) in 2017.

Among them, the intravenous drug user and gays or men who have sex with men (MSM) accounted for most of the new HIV/AIDS cases added every year, added Dr Reddy.

The trend of reporting higher infection among female sex workers (FSW) has now changed to MSM, said Dr Reddy. Truck drivers and migrant workers were the most vulnerable group for contracting HIV/AIDS.

With 0.17% PLHIV prevalence rate (the number of people testing positive for HIV/AIDS out of a population of 100), the state, however, fared better than the national average of 0.22%, as it strode towards the national goal to eliminate the public threat of the disease by 2030, added Dr Reddy. The Covid-19 pandemic had pushed the deadline ahead by almost five years.

In fact, HIV testing took a hit during the pandemic in 2020-21 when 5,77,103 people were screened, of which 1.12% (6,469) tested positive. Prior to that, 8,51,346 were screened in 2019-20, of which 1.16% (9,928) were found to be HIV positive, said state health officials.

Bihar’s annual testing figures, however, indicate that the number of people turning HIV/AIDS positive in the state is declining.

“From 1.83% HIV/AIDS positive percentage, when 11,000 out of the 6 lakh people tested positive in 2018-19, to 0.91% in 2021-22, when 7,139 of the 6,87,439 tested till February, reported positive, Bihar’s interventions have been effective,” said Anshul Agarwal, project director of the Bihar State AIDS Control Society (BSACS). “The decline in the positive percentage of HIV/AIDS has been possible because of our concerted interventions and efforts at spreading awareness about the disease among the masses,” added Agarwal.

With 1.34 lakh infected, Bihar accounted for nearly 5.77% of India’s 23.19 lakh people living with HIV/AIDS.

Nafisa Binte Shafique, chief of field office, UNICEF Bihar, said a three-pronged approach, including spreading awareness about HIV prevention; addressing the societal stigma and discrimination against PLHIV; and making HIV testing and counselling available across all health facility, should be pursued to further reduce the infection.

Besides awareness, Bihar health minister Mangal Pandey advocated early testing and treatment for HIV/AIDS. Though challenging, he said, every effort should be to provide quality life to people living with HIV/AIDS. Pandey said the state government had doled out ₹23 crore on different welfare schemes last financial year for PLHIV/AIDS.

(Except for the headline and the pictorial description, this story has not been edited by THE DEN staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)