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Decline in AIDS awareness alarms health activists

GUWAHATI: Immunity disorder HIV/AIDS, the most dreaded ailment of the Nineties, is still a threat in the state, especially in rural areas, but what is alarming is the drop in awareness levels.

People infected with the disease suppress it for fear of ostracism instead of seeking medical assistance. Awareness about the ailment convincing patients to go to health centres has sadly gone down.

The Assam State AIDS Control Society (ASACS) on Wednesday acknowledged that the level of awareness about HIV/AIDS has plummeted in Assam in the last few years. Manvendra Pratap Singh, incumbent project director, said one of the reasons for the drop in awareness could be the perceived notion that HIV/AIDS is not as scary as before because of the availability of drugs and antiretroviral therapy (ART).

"The risk groups should be the focus areas of campaign. The fear psychosis attached to HIV/AIDS is dwindling in comparison to the Nineties. We don't see much awareness programmes on TV these days. There is a need to mobilise resources and increase awareness. In rural Assam, people don't want to disclose their HIV status," said Singh.

The first case of AIDS in Assam was reported over two decades ago. But even today, comprehensive knowledge of HIV/AIDS, especially among women in the age group of 15 and 49, is abysmal, according to a study by the National Family Health Survey (2015-16) released this year.

The study revealed only 9.4% women in that age group had comprehensive knowledge of HIV/AIDS. The term 'comprehensive knowledge' means a woman adopting measures to check the chance of getting infected with HIV/AIDS through consistent use of contraceptives and having one uninfected, faithful sexual partner.

The 9.4% figure cuts a sorry picture vis-a-vis states and UTs like Andhra Pradesh (29%), Goa (34.6%), Andaman and Nicobar Islands (28.2%), Manipur (40.7%), Sikkim (25.5%) and Tripura (28%).

Bihar and Meghalaya have also scored miserably on the comprehensive knowledge count with figures of 10.1% and 13.3%, respectively.

Till September 2015, 38% HIV positive cases were detected from Kamrup (Metro) followed by Cachar, Dibrugarh and Nagaon districts. From Kamrup (Metro) district alone, 4,268 HIV positive cases were detected till September 30, 2015. The rate of increase in annual new HIV infections is the highest in Assam and Tripura.

Source:  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/guwahati/Decline-in-AIDS-awareness-alarms-health-activists/articleshow/55716509.cms