In a grim battle, the public health officials, in the picturesque state of Kerala have triumphed in keeping the AIDS pandemic in check. Statistics show that infection did not escalate last year. Number of cases increased by only 0.32 %, in the general population.
Figures show that incidence of HIV infection among injecting drug users (IDU) did show a surge. In fact, the figures provided by Kerala State AIDS Control Society (KSACS) show that it has doubled from last year. Interestingly, HIV positive cases among gays also showed an increase, denoting that AIDS affecting men who indulge in sex with men (MSM) has gone up to 3.2 per cent. Officials will have to revamp their strategies to deal with these high-risk groups.
KSACS have been actively involved with novel intervention programmes since 2003.Their focus was mainly on IDUs in Kozhikode. A rapid survey assessment of drug use showed a high risk of AIDS in cities like Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Kochi.
IDUs show lesser inhibition to share needles, and have no qualms of indulging in unsafe sex and were also seen to have more than one sexual partner. KSACS plans to reintroduce a program, which had to be abandoned in February 2006 in the light of stiff criticism. This programme aims to provide drug users, with fresh needles and syringes to dissuade them from re using old ones.
There is increasing evidence of HIV outbreaks in India, among men who have sex with men. Sadly, the needs of this group of people are less addressed by National AIDS Programmes. KSACS intends to launch programmes for such people soon.
Another source of concern is the influx of laborers from bordering states where AIDS is highly prevalent. Kerala now figures in the list of states that have successfully met the targets set by the National AIDS Control Programme.This state is in the frontline now, taking the lead. All geared to focus on meeting the goals of Phase 111 of NACP, KSACS intends to take HIV prevention programmes to grass root levels.