Towards an Aids-free society

One of the counsellors giving awarenes on HIV/AIDS at an Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre in the district.The prevalence of AIDS in Dakshina Kannda district has come down to 0.25 per cent in 2011 from the 0.75 per cent as recorded in 2008, thanks to the efforts of the District AIDS and Prevention Control Unit, which is striving hard to spread awareness and support people with HIV.

With World AIDS Day round the corner, the department is all set to bring the prevalence of HIV even lower by sensitising the society.

Speaking to City Herald, District AIDS Control Officer Dr Kishore Kumar says that testing people to detect the HIV virus is an ongoing process conducted by the department. The district has 42 Integrated Counselling and Testing Centers (ICTC) and the counselling and testing is done free of cost. The department also tries to reach the remote areas with a mobile clinic ‘Sadhana’.

Explaining on how the testing centers work, Kumar says that each center will have a councellor and a lab technician. Every person has a choice to take the test. The test results are usually given the same day by the Counsellor.

If the person is tested positive, then he is referred to ART (Anti Retroviral Therapy) center for Pre ART registration. A CD4 count test (which indicates status of the immune system) is done at the ART center.

If the CD4 count is below 250 for general population and below 350 for TB and pregnant women, then they are put on ART as it helps to control the immune system.

Stating that HIV is different from AIDS, he said HIV is a virus and AIDS is a syndrome. “It usually takes more than 10 years to reach the stage of AIDS after the person is affected with HIV. People with HIV can look and feel healthy for many years,” informed Dr Kumar.

Control measures

There are 47 government provided condom outlets in Dakshina Kannada district and there are 160 petty shops that give condoms at a discounted rate to people including truckers.

These outlets are managed by various NGOs, says Dr Kumar. Awareness is also being provided to high risk groups such as sex workers and truck drivers. They are made to take the HIV test frequently.

 The mother to child transmission of HIV is 30 per cent. While nearly 20 per cent incidents happen during delivery, 5 per cent may be during breast feeding. Hence during delivery the mother is given a tablet ‘Nevirapine’ to reduce the viral load in the body.

The project started in 2007 and with the 114 deliveries that have occurred till date, only two children are detected positive, informs Dr Kumar.

Red Ribbon Clubs

The department is also involving itself in many awarenss programmes. Red Ribbon Clubs have been started in 32 Colleges of DK district. As many as 20 students who are NSS volunteers are given training on steps to prevent spread of HIV/Aids. Every College will be given Rs 9,000 each year to organise awareness programmes in campus as well as places were NSS camps are held. With targeted intervention, NGOs funded by Karnataka Aids Prevention Society work with high risk groups.

There are various associations such as Hind Kusht Nivarana Sangha (HKNS) in Mangalore and CARDTS in Bantwal who work to help HIV affected people.

There are various community care centers such as Sneha Sadhan in Gurpur which gives free treatment to HIV victims and also networks of positive people that gives hope to people with HIV.

Schemes

The government has also provided different schemes to help HIV victims. Children infected with HIV and also children whose parents are infected with HIV will be given Rs 400 to 800 a month.

The government will pay Rs 3,200 as hospital fee to pregnant women with HIV who deliver in private hospital under the Yashashwini Scheme. Women who will have cesarean delivery will be paid Rs 8,000.

Victim speaks

“The world is all set to celebrate another World AIDS day on December 1. People will wear red ribbons, ministers will visit us, awareness programmes will be held, media will hype it on newspapers and TV and then the day will come to an end. Everyone will forget us till the next world AIDS day,” said Seema, a HIV positive activist and Founder President of the Hongirana Network of Positive people, to City Herald.

“I was scared to come out in open, but my counsellor told me that I am a lady of courage and if I come out, many people can be saved from having HIV virus. Many can have psychological support. The stigma in the society can be reduced. I always had support from my family thinking of those who are outcast from their homes because of HIV made me take that step,” says Seema and adds that she does not regret in coming out in open. “I have received encouragement and support,” she says.

Though the stigma on HIV has drastically reduced, it still exists. “There is still a need to have a change in mindset,” she stressed. She also regretted the lack of facilities the HIV people have. “Many don’t have money for nutritious food or travel for their check ups. If we were given financial security, then there is nothing like it,” she says.

“I have come out in open risking my reputation. The only intention was to help others. If people are considerate towards people with HIV throughout the year and not only on the World AIDS day, it will act as a great motivator,” concludes Seema.

Jatha

Dr Kishore Kumar has called people to join the Jatha on December 1 which will be conducted by the members of Red Ribbon Club. The walk will be held from Balmatta to Roshni Nilaya and later awareness programmes will be held.

486 in DK are affected with HIV

As many as 732 people were tested positive for HIV out of the 28,883 people tested, from January to October 2011. Of these, 486 people have been identified from DK district and 246 are identified as migrants.

As many as 22,172 pregnant women were tested for the HIV virus from January to October 2011. Of this, 36 have been identified as HIV positive.

In the year 2007, as many as 1,245 cases; in the year 2008, as many as 1,169 cases; in 2009, as many as 1,064 cases and in 2010 as many as 967 were tested HIV positive.

With regard to pregnant women, in 2007, as many as 82 cases; in 2008, around 60 cases; and 50 cases in 2009, 47 in 2010 were tested positive for HIV virus.

Since 2006, as many as 3,151 people are undergoing Anti Retroviral Therapy. According to statistics, from 2006 till October 2011, 621 people have died due to AIDS in DK district.

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