Maharashtra witnesses 24 percent rise in HIV deaths, reveals health ministry data

Mumbai: According to data from the central health ministry, the number of deaths due to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Maharashtra has risen by 24 per cent, from 8,247 in 2016-17 to 10,061 in 2017-18, while the country has witnessed a four per cent rise in the number of such deaths. The data also reveals that in the same period, the fund allocation has also witnessed a drop, affecting outreach programmes, which could be a factor for the spike in these numbers.

In the last three years, 26,405 HIV deaths were reported in Maharashtra, which ranked second to Andhra Pradesh, from where 37,199 HIV deaths were reported in the same period. “While in the state, deaths have increased by 24 per cent, the figures for Andhra Pradesh show a 10 per cent decline, at 10,901 in 2017-18, down from 12,169 in 2016-17,” said an official.

Deputy Director, National AIDS Control Society, Dr Naresh Goyal, said there is a large number of people suffering from HIV in Maharashtra. “With the increase in cases, the number of deaths have increased in last three years,” he said. Surprisingly, despite the high incidence of HIV in Maharashtra, there has been a cut in the funds received for prevention of the disease. In 2015-16, the state received Rs 10,409 lakh, which was reduced to Rs 9,968 lakh in 2017-18. Another reason for the increase in the number of HIV deaths could be because the list of deaths has been updated, a doctor said. “People migrating to cities like Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Thane for work is another major cause, adding to the number of existing HIV patients of the city,” he added.

However, activists claim lack of integrated treatment centres for co-infections like tuberculosis, hepatitis B and HIV is adding to the deaths. “As per the new policy of the government, if a person has been diagnosed HIV-positive, immediate treatment is given to them. Earlier, treatment was only given to those patients, whose Cluster of Differentiation 4 (CD4) count was below 400. (CD4 is a glycoprotein found on the surface of immune cells) The number should have actually decreased because the number of patients living without anti-retro viral therapy (ART) is decreasing,” said Ganesh Acharya, an HIV patient and activist.

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