HIV/AIDS infection rate among pregnant women is as high as two per cent in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, reports said.
Karnataka is one of the five states in India where the HIV/AIDS infection is the highest with 2% of the constituting pregnant women.
“This is an alarming figure given that the percentage should be less than 1. Immediate measures have to be taken to prevent the spread of the infection,” Dr Padmini Prasad, consultant obstetrician, was quoted as saying at a programme on UN Millennium Development Goals organized by the department of communication.
Among the HIV positive pregnant women at least 50% are in the age group of 15-24 years. According to her youth are becoming more vulnerable due to physical, psychological and social attributes of adolescents. India is faced with the daunting task of prevention, care and treatment of HIV/AIDS and overcoming the stigma is also a challenge.
Government and other agencies engaged in the prevention HIV disease should make condom accessible and easy at the same time ensuring the consistent and correct use of condoms.
India has already charted out a programmes to expand supply of cheaper female condoms across the country as a measure to control the spread of HIV among women.
A year-long pre-programme acceptability and feasibility study since November 2006, involving 60,000 women across 13 sites — 11 involving high-risk groups like sex workers and two family planning programmes — in eight states had found that 60% women were re-purchasing condoms and over 98% of the users enjoyed the comfort level.
“The pilot project was highly successful, showing consistent use of female condoms. We, therefore, propose to further scale-up the programme in two or three districts in each of the nine states. At present, India has 2.4 million HIV patients, of which nearly 40% are women. The condom will not be commercially available very soon,” stated Gaurav Jain, who is in-charge of condom promotion at National Aids Control Organisation (NACO).
Currently, cheaper female condoms are made available to female sex workers in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Rajasthan.
India wants to spread out the cheaper female condom distribution to another nine states soon through NACO. The new states which will be given female condoms are Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Haryana, Punjab, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
India wants to make the reach of cheaper female condoms nationwide as soon as the data from these 17 states are available. NACO has already supplied 1.5 million female condoms since 2008 when it started the programme.
NACO buys female condoms over Rs 20 a piece from Hindustan Latex Limited (HLL), but provides them to female sex workers (FSW) for only Rs 3.50 each.
Nearly 50% of the 1.7 lakh fresh cases of HIV reported annually in India are women, reports said.
The objective to promote female condoms is to empower FSWs to convince their clients or regular partners to use condoms, and address concern regarding unwillingness of male partner to use condom, according to NACO director-general K Chandramouli.
The female condom programme was implemented through select NGOs in six states. The results from the pre-programme assessment indicated high levels of acceptance of female condoms among sex workers and around 5% reduction in unprotected intercourse.
Experts say when male partner refuses to use a condom, women need such self-initiated methods to protect themselves against unplanned pregnancies and HIV/AIDS.
India is also planning to study HIV infection in kids in view of the rising incidence of the disease caused by the AIDS causing virus in the country.
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the country’s apex policy making body for conducting and regulation of medical research will soon start a multi-centric study on HIV in children, reports said.
A 2006 report estimated that the total number of HIV infection in India was 2.47 million. Out of which 3.8 per cent of the cases seen were below 15 years.
The prevalence of HIV for adult males and females together has been showing a declining trend during past five years. It was 0.36 per cent in the year 2006 against 0.45 per cent in 2002. HIV prevalence 2006 in general population was 0.3 per cent. The adult HIV prevalence during last five years remained almost stable at 0.4 per cent varying between 0.45 per cent in 2002 and 0.36 per cent in 2006.
People living with HIV in all ages in 2006 was 2.47 million. Around 4 per cent of them were children, 8 per cent among the above-49 age groups and the remaining 88 per cent in 15 to 49 age groups.
The study aims to assess the potential causes of the disease and to develop a national representative data on paediatric HIV burden in India.
It will also focus on the issues and ways to deal with preventing mother-to-childtransmission of HIV (PMTCT). In fact, ICMR is initiating a very important study, since mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) is a major concern and reason for increase in the number of HIV infection in the world. It happens when an HIV-infected woman passes the virus to her baby.
Mother-to-child transmission can occur during pregnancy, labour and delivery, or breastfeeding. Without treatment, around 15-30 per cent of babies born to HIV positive women will become infected with HIV during pregnancy and delivery. A further 5 to 20 per cent will become infected through breastfeeding