In 13 years, Punjab sees 116% rise in annual new infections of HIV | Chandigarh News

    CHANDIGARH: Punjab, already grappling with the menace of drug addiction, now faces another grave predicament of rapidly rising cases of HIVAIDS, which has reached alarming proportions in the past decade.

    The state witnessed 116.69% rise in annual new infections between 2010-2023, a trend that stands in stark contrast to the declining infection rates observed at the national level during the same period.

    The alarming rise in the infection rate necessitates the implementation of holistic approach and targeted interventions to effectively control the transmission of the virus and extend essential support to individuals impacted by it.

    Injecting drugs using shared needles and syringes is one of the major contributors to the spread of HIV in the state. In addition to this mode of transmission, the virus can also be passed from one person to another through sexual contact, blood, and from mother to infant.

    The factsheet of HIV estimates for 2023, compiled by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), ministry of health and family welfare, showed that a total of 9,103 new HIV infections were reported in the state in 2023. The percentage change in the annual new HIV infections in the period from 2010-2023 was the fourth highest in the country.

    Tripura topped the list with a staggering 524% rise, followed by Arunachal Pradesh at 469.84% and Meghalaya at 124.70%. In contrast, the national average showed a decline of 44.23% in annual new HIV infections during the same period.

    The HIV incidence per 1,000 uninfected population in Punjab was recorded at 0.30 against the all-India average of 0.05. The incidence rate in the neighbouring states of Himachal Pradesh and Haryana was 0.03 and 0.10, respectively.

    With 566 infected persons succumbing to the virus in 2023, the AIDS-related mortality rate per lakh population in Pujab was pegged at 1.85. This was the highest in the region and noted a 41.50% increase in AIDS-related deaths over 13-year-period from 2010 to 2023.

    In Punjab, 1,05,791 people are living with HIV of which 0.42% are in the age group of 15-19 years. At the national level, 25,44,364 people are infected with the virus while the prevalence of HIV among 15-19 years has been recorded at 0.20%.

    Without the right treatment and care, a woman living with HIV can pass HIV on to her baby, for which 1,027 services are required for the elimination of vertical transmis sion of HIV, the count of which stands at 513 in Haryana and 34 in Himachal.
    Response of authorities
    Dedicated clinics have been set up at district/subdistrict hospitals and govt medical colleges and targeted interventions for highrisk groups are being implemented through NGOs.

    A wide array of services is being provided, including behaviour change communication, condom promotion, STI care, referrals to HIV testing and anti-retroviral treatment, and harm reduction including opioid substitution treatment.

    Over 72 targeted interventions and seven link worker schemes are operational in the state covering nearly 20,000 female sex workers, about 5,000 gay men, 26,000 injecting drug users, 32,000 migrants and 16,000 truckers.

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