Inter, graduate students are new HIV / AIDS risk groups in AP

Experts say, educational institutions are not imposing curbs on high-risk behaviour within their students fearing dip in their admissions

Vijayawada: The good news for Andhra Pradesh is HIV/AIDS appears to be on a declining trend, being 0.87 per cent at present within general public from 6.74 per cent in 2010–2011, apart from 0.05 per cent antenatal cases presently from 0.46 per cent some 12 years ago.

The bad news is that youngsters pursuing intermediate and graduation in several educational institutions, in addition to those working in various sectors, have become new risk groups in the recent past, as they are getting infected with HIV / AIDS. They are unaware of their health status and spreading infection among their partners.

It is APSACS (AP State Aids Control Society’s) mandate to educate and help vulnerable know their HIV / AIDS status, provide antiretroviral therapy to infected patients and suppress their viral load through medication by taking up targeted interventions. But APSACS has limited itself to focusing on so-called high-risk groups of female sex workers, MSMs, transgender people and others.

Health experts say unless youngsters are sensitised about their high risk behaviour and given antiretroviral therapy after testing positive to infection, spread of HIV / AIDS cannot be controlled.

They maintain that fearing dip in their admissions, certain educational institutions are not imposing any curbs on high-risk behaviour within their students.

A team leader of an HIV / AIDS infected people’s organisation said, “It is time APSACS came up with new strategies, especially targeting younger generation. They must be sensitised about HIV / AIDS, subject to tests and provided treatment, so that they can be part of a health society.”

While this is so, HIV / AIDS-infected people are complaining about denial of admission to them in hospitals for surgeries under YSR Aarogyasri scheme. They want restoration of Foster Care Scheme, wherein each infected child gets monthly financial support of Rs 500.

They say the scheme had been discontinued during Covid-19. They want government to provide nutritious diet to such children to help them survive. Some of such children have even been orphaned or abandoned.

HIV / AIDS-infected people say state government should sanction monthly pension of Rs 2,500 to all the affected and not just a few. In addition, they want an electric crematorium for themselves, as it is becoming increasingly difficult to deal with dead bodies of infected patients. None is coming forward to support their family members in performing their last rites.

A section of youngsters has welcomed the newly introduced monthly pack of pre-exposure prophylaxis medicine to prevent HIV infection being offered at concessional rate of Rs 425 against its regular price of Rs 2,000. But they say lack of proper knowledge about its usage is resulting youngsters giving up safe sex practices. They are thus becoming either vulnerable to infection or are infecting others.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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