Mumbai: Despite a series of campaigns, unprotected sex continues to be the major reason for rise in HIV cases in the city. According to data from the Mumbai District Aids Control Society (MDACS), 94 per cent of the new HIV cases reported in the city were a consequence of unprotected sex and 77 per cent of those infected were in the 15-49 age group, with over a third of these being women.

The data also revealed, 3.5 per cent of the cases of reported transmission of HIV were from mother to child and just 0.1 per cent of the cases were of people getting infected because of used needles.

“The bridge population, which includes migrants and truckers, account for the majority of the new infections. This finding was also underlined by their geo-mapping of new cases, which showed higher infections in slum areas and pockets with population influx,” said an official.

Dr Shrikala Acharya, joint director, MDACS, said it was taking all necessary efforts to curb cases in the city. "Despite it being common knowledge that having unprotected sex can lead to HIV, people throw caution to the winds and indulge in risky behaviour, as a result of which cases have increased. There is a need for behavioural change in citizens. This alone can help reduce the incidence of HIV cases. With this purpose in mind, the MDACS has taken several measures, which include campaigns in colleges, railway stations, advertisements and many more,” Dr Acharya said.

“Our analysis shows there has been a decline in new cases among high-risk groups, such as female sex workers, transgenders and drug-users. On the contrary, there is a rise in such cases as a result of unprotected sex ,” she added.

Dr Padmaja Keskar, executive health official, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, said the incidence of such cases can be reduced only when there is participation from both sides. “We are creating awareness at a broader level so that people are aware of HIV cases and its prevalence,” she said.

Dr Inder Maurya, MD Emergency Medicine, said the prevalence of HIV in India is 2.1 million, of which 39 per cent affected are women. "Unprotected sex (anal, vaginal, oral) without condoms increase HIV risk multifold. Highest risk is seen in homosexual males, who indulge in anal intercourse. Although the government of India provides free anti-HIV drugs (anti-retroviral therapy), yet people are unable to access HIV clinics, as they are unaware of the location of these clinics. HIV treatment requires a multidisciplinary approach, hence a second opinion plays a pivotal in HIV care, from diagnosis to management,” said Dr Maurya.

Tuberculosis and HIV activist Ganesh Acharya said the corporation should redesign its programme because they are still using the traditional approach and interventions dating to the 90s, as a result of which teenagers are least interested in learning about it. “Youths, kids and specifically, Generation Z are not aware what HIV/AIDS is. In the early days of the AIDS crisis, so much media information about HIV and AIDS was disseminated in the 80s and 90s. But now, we are focusing on the general population, instead of teenagers,” he said.

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