Delhi home to over 32,000 HIV/AIDS patients

New Delhi, July 10 (IANS) The Indian capital is home to over 32,000 HIV/AIDS patients and at least one million more are very much vulnerable to the deadly disease, the Delhi State Aids Control Society (Delhi SACS) said Thursday.

‘Though Delhi is low HIV prevalence state, it is highly vulnerable to the deadly disease as the high risk population is spread across the city. Of the total population of 16 million, at least one million are high-risk groups,’ said B.S. Banerjee, project director of Delhi SACS.

‘The east, north, northeast and central districts of the state are more vulnerable,’ he told IANS on the sideline of a HIV/AIDS programme. He also cited the floating population, number of trucker, people living away from homes and cheap sex as the primary reasons behind the disease.

Banerjee said while nearly 77 percent of the spread of disease is through unsafe sexual practices, Intravenous drug use (IDU) is responsible for 8.79 percent of the cases and infected blood transfusion causes 7.14 percent of cases.

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He said more and more commercial sex workers and IDUs are falling victim to the disease but the disease prevalence among men having sex with men have reduced from 20.4 percent in 2005 to 11.73 percent last year.

Delhi is home to over 61,600 female sex workers, nearly 30,000 men having sex with men and over 17,100 intravenous drug users (IDUs).

‘We know the antiretroviral treatment (ART) is costly but let me clarify that all HIV positive who come to us get free medication. Currently over 6,000 are availing ART treatment in Delhi,’ Banerjee said.

Banerjee and NGO Naz Foundation’s chief Anjali Gopalan were among a few Indian experts who Thursday interacted with a group of Russian experts to explore possibility of a joint effort to fight the disease.

While discussing the issues related to HIV/AIDS through video conferencing, experts from both sides agreed to hold more such interaction to exchange ideas, best practices and a possible joint effort for developing alternative medicine to combat AIDS.

‘We should meet more often to exchange views and learn from each other,’ said Vladimir Shreter, head of the Russian Information Centre here.

India is home to 2.5 million HIV/AIDS patients.

‘The Indian government has realised the magnitude of the problem but just free medication cannot help the cause. Proper nutrition for these people on ART and a friendly society is very important,’ Gopalan said.

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