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Assam Reports HIV Suicides, Treatment a Distant Dream

At least a dozen HIV-positive people have committed suicide in Assam in the last few months while hundreds of others are struggling for survival// as there is virtually no access to treatment.

"We have details of about 10 HIV-positive people who committed suicide in recent months. The situation is indeed alarming as there could be more such people who might have ended their lives unable to cope with the stress," Jahnabi Goswami, president of the Assam Network of Positive People (ANPP), told IANS.

Goswami, 30, is one of the few women in India fighting to raise awareness about the disease and also belongs to an even smaller category of people who have publicly declared they are HIV-positive.

Although Assam is one of the few Indian states to have set up Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centres (VCTC) in almost all districts, the fact remains that the recent cases of suicide were a result of people not being able to come to terms with reality.

"There are some very dedicated counsellors. But in some cases one finds certain lacunae in the way post-test counselling was done," Goswami said.

Counselling apart, hundreds of people living with HIV/AIDS are passing agonising days with no access to treatment. The state has just two Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) roll out centres - one each at the Guwahati Medical College and the Assam Medical College in Dibrugarh.

ART is a combination of medicines that helps a person living with HIV to fight off infections and live a longer life, although it is not a cure. Besides, ART also significantly impact transmission by reducing the viral load concentration and minimising the risk of transmission to their sexual partners.

"Access to comprehensive care and treatment has been a distant dream for people living with HIV/AIDS in Assam," Goswami said.

There are many tales of woes.

"One of our members died recently at a hospital in Silchar
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