HIV on the rise among gays

Prevalence of the disease highest in larger cities, rural areas also catching up fast

NEW DELHI: With gay sex on a steady rise in big cities, the HIV-infected population too is growing fast. Almost 11.5% of the estimated 50 million gay population in India was infected by the deadly virus, with men in Pune and Bangalore being its biggest victims.

P Vineeta, from DNA

According to the annual HIV sentinel surveillance country report by National AIDS Control Organisation and National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, Pune and Bangalore’s HIV infected gay population almost doubled in last two years. Pune had 23.6% of gays infected in 2006, a survey found, compared to 12.8% in 2004. On the other hand, 19.2% of Bangalore’s gay population carried the deadly virus in 2006.

But the HIV prevalence among Mumbai’s gays declined from 9% in 2004 to 7% in 2006. Encouraging reports also came from Chennai where the figures dropped from 7% in 2004 to 4% in 2006 even as the overall prevalence among gays in India increased by 2% from 2005. HIV prevalence among men having sex with men was the highest in large cities across the country.

Delhi’s north-east area, however, recorded highest HIV rates, 32.8%, among all cities, with Rajkot (14%), Surat (12.8%), Kolkata (8.4%) and Vadodara (6.8%) also having substantial percentage of gay population under the infected blanket.

Total 3.5 lakh population across 609 districts were tested at 1,122 sentinel sites.

Even though the epidemic remained uncontrolled among gays, the survey found an overall decline of the HIV epidemic in high prevalence states Andhra, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

HIV prevalence was highest among women whose spouses were employed in the transport industry. Farmers, unskilled labourers, unemployed men, wives of those working in hotel industry too were infected. In Manipur and Nagaland it was highest in women having spouses working in industries or factories.

Though the overall prevalence was higher among the urban population, it was also higher in the rural population of Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.

The report said that there were several emerging HIV epidemic hotspots. New injecting drug users (IDU) epidemics kicked off in Chandigarh, Delhi and Punjab. In some districts of Bengal there were high transmission among sex workers and IDUs.

A trend of increasing prevalence among antenatal clinic attendees is apparent in Orissa and Rajasthan and some sites in West Bengal.

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