1,163 HIV positive people in Meghalaya

SHILLONG, Dec 3 – Health authorities in Meghalaya yesterday said the number of people living with HIV/AIDS virus has increased many folds since 2007 when only 14 persons were tested positive.

Now, 1163 persons are living with the virus and authorities believed there could be more who are yet to come forward to test.

For a small State with a population of about three million people, the number is staggering and the trend is increasing every year with as many as 79 positive people having succumbed to the virus. The international watchdogs on HIV have categorised the State as ‘low prevalence but high risk.’

“The cumulative figures till October this year is 1,163 positive cases in the State,” Meghalaya Aids Control Society (MACS) director F Kharkongor said.

The MACS chief said that only 527 positive persons have turned up for treatment at the three Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) Centres set up in the State even as she expressed concern at the low turn out of the patients at the designated hospitals.

The first tests were started in 2007 in which 14 persons only were tested positive, she said, adding that the figure increased every year – 54 in 2008, 131 in 2009, 245 in 2010, 452 in 2011, 731 in 2012 and 1008 till March 2013.

The number of deaths has also increased every year since 2008 when only one patient died, four in 2009 and eight in 2010 taking the cumulative figure to 12, Kharkongor said.

The cumulative deaths in 2011 increased from 12 to 22 and then 37 the following year, she said, adding that the number of victims increased almost doubly during the period from March 2012 to March 2013 with 25 deaths.

From March to October this year, the number of deaths recorded stands at 17, also the highest during the same period in the past six years, the official said.

According to a data compiled by the MACS, 43 per cent of the victims are of the age group from 25 - 34 and mostly are the active inject drug users.

However, the female sex workers working in the coal belts and along the National Highways in the State also constitute a huge chunk of those people living with the HIV virus. The others are men who have sex with men and children born out of positive parents.