Pune: A staggering population of about
one lakh HIV-AIDS positives are availing of the anti-retro
viral therapy (ART) in Government medical facilities of
Maharashtra, which is the number two state in prevalence of
the dreaded disease in the country.
Maharashtra, which comes next to Andhra Pradesh in HIV
-AIDS prevalence - accounting for 18 per cent of the afflicted
population in India - has launched a multi-pronged drive to
curb the menace, initiating various steps under National Aids
Control programme, said Dilip Deshmukh, Additional Project
Director, Maharashtra State Aids Control Society (MSACS).
"The high prevalence districts in Maharashtra besides
Mumbai, include Sangli, Latur, Pune, Satara and Kolhapur.
Efforts are on to curb transmission of the infection from high
risk groups (HRGs), which consist of sex workers, truckers
migrant labourers and drug users, to common population." he said.
Deshmukh said the HIV positives were now coming out of
closet to register themselves with Government and NGO agencies
to avail of the ART, being provided free of cost at various
Government and civil hospitals throughout the state.
The widespread network of the affected people was
proving to be effective in fighting the stigma attached to
their status in society, he said.
"Another challenge the health officials are facing is
that of ending discrimination in rural schools against
children with HIV positive status. The health directorate has
launched a drive to sensitise healthcare providers, workers,
NGOs operating at village level. Parents and teachers are
being involved in this exercise."
A startling fact that has come to the fore through the
surveys conducted in rural areas is that when it came to
"acceptance" of HIV positive children in the school, the
students had little reservations in interacting with the
unfortunate victims once the mode of transmission is explained
to them. They are told that casual contact does not involve
any risk of spreading the infection, said Deshmukh.
"While normal schoolchildren had no difficulty in
accepting the HIV positive status of their unfortunate
counterparts, it was the parents and teachers who insisted
on the discriminatory practices against HIV positive children
in rural areas."
The Government, in coordination with NGOs, was doing
its best to protect the right to education of HIV-affected
children in the state, he stressed.
Data gathered by MSACS showed that there was a greater
need to change the mindset of parents who feared that their
wards would contract the infection.
"Unreported incidents of discrimination could be more
that the ones noted by health workers in rural regions of
Pune, Sangli and Satara," he felt.
Of an estimated 24 lakh HIV positive people in the
country, about 4.20 lakh reside in Maharashtra, where about 50
per cent of them have registered for ART at Government medical