15,000 Testing Centres Fail To Check Spread. As many as 87% of HIV+ people are not even aware that they are suffering from the infection and may be unknowingly spreading the virus, according to government data.
Estimated by National Aids Control Organisation(NACO), which works under the ministry of health and family welfare, show over 23 million people were tested during 2014-15,of which 2,40,234 people found HIV+. This included over 14000 pregnant women who were diagnosed with this virus.
“The low level of awareness among HIV+ population is of concern because research show that early diagnosis is crucial. It allows patients to start on treatment sooner, which can greatly reduce the risk of spreading the infection to partners.” Detecting the virus early also improves health outcomes for infected patients”, said Gerald Schochetman, senior director, infectious Diseases and Diagnostic Research,Abbott.
Government officials as well as health experts say the risk is more among the vulnerable population that practises high-risk behaviour or have higher chances of HIV prevalence. This includes sex workers,trans-genders and even long distance truckers.
Over the years, counselling and testing centres across the country have increased with many private laboratories now offering HIV detection tests apart from the government centres. In 1997,there were just 67 HIV testing and counselling sites in India, whereas Naco data shows there over 15,000 healthcare facilities offering counselling and testing across India 2014.
“Counselling and testing services are important components of prevention and control of Aids in the country,” said Anand Grover, founder president Lawyers Collective. Grover said instead of cutting corners with the vulnerable population by criminalizing them, government should counsel and provide them with proper care so that they do not transmit the disease further.
In the past few years, the number of infections has declined in India because we worked with the vulnerable population, distributed condoms and made them aware. One needs to partner them so that they help in not increasing the burden,” Grover said.
The UN estimated that India currently has the third largest population of HIV infected people in the World. There are over 2.30 million HIV patients in India, with the north, south and north east regions accounting for the majority of the patiens.