In the state of Manipur one in every one hundred individuals is HIV positive according to a recent study on HIV prevalence in India.
The study revealed that Manipur had the highest percentage of HIV positive individuals of all Indian states, with 1.06 percent of the population affected. This figure was followed by Mizoram, at 0.79 percent, and 0.76 percent in Nagaland.
Nagaland was found to have the highest percentage of those coinfected with both tuberculosis (TB) and HIV, with fourteen percent of those affected with TB also infected with HIV. Comorbidity such as this can significantly increase the chance of death due to TB, resulting from an already compromised immune system.
As a whole, India was found to have 21.1 lakh (2.1 million) individuals affected by HIV. Around 82 percent of all of these cases occur in just nine states: Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Rajasthan.
The state of HIV treatment in India made global headlines last year as numerous states ran out of antiretroviral medicines. Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Maharashtra and Delhi were affected by these shortages, which saw infected individuals only being sporadically treated. In addition to the lack of medication available to some states, it was found that during the shortages, equipment related to diagnosis and treatment of HIV was also either out of stock or non-functional.
These shortages came in the wake of a controversial new HIV/AIDS bill which was blighted by legal challenges. The issues surrounding the bill came from a single phrase, that treatment was to be provided “as far as possible”.
The Health Ministry hailed the bill as a historic step in the fight for the human rights of those suffering from HIV. However, many rights groups objected. The use of the “as far as possible” phrase in section 14 (1) meant that the right to the provision of treatment was not guaranteed, but only to be provided if possible. Campaigners against the bill said the phrase was used intentionally as a legal loophole to remove the obligation of the government to provide free care to those with HIV.
Prevention should be the focus says Metevino Sakhrie, joint director of Nagaland State AIDS Control Society (NSACS). They have urged media personalities and news outlets to aid in providing a public platform for an information campaign to educate the public on the risks of contracting the virus. By making the disease more frequently seen in the public sphere, they hope to remove any social stigma, and encourage more people to seek blood tests and treatment.