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Assam Reports HIV Suicides, Treatment a Distant Dream

without any medication, while many more are not even getting the mandatory opportunistic infection medicines with the authorities saying there is no supply. Many like us are suffering without any access to treatment," said Maniruddin Laskar, general secretary of the Barak Valley Network of Positive People in southern Assam.

"There is just one CD-4 Count machine in Assam, a vital component for managing HIV."

There are no official estimates or studies to ascertain the number of HIV-positive people living without any medication in Assam.

"It is difficult to say how many HIV-positive people are living without medication. We have about 500 such people enrolled with the ART roll-out centres although not all positive people requires ART," Shyamala Rao, head of the government-run Assam State AIDS Control Society, told IANS.

India accounts for about 5.7 million HIV-positive people, reportedly surpassing South Africa.

India's northeast has been declared as one of the country's high-risk zones with close to 100,000 people infected with HIV. There are some 1,750 HIV-positive people in Assam although unofficial estimates put the number at close to 30,000.

Despite the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), India's apex healthcare body to fight HIV/AIDS, promising appropriate care and support to persons infected with the disease and rational treatment for follow up of HIV related illnesses, in reality it is a far cry.

"The number of Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centres should be equally matched by professionally trained physicians for ART management. Otherwise the entire efforts at controlling the epidemic would be futile," S.I. Ahmed, head of the AIDS Prevention Society, a leading community healthcare group in Assam, said.

"Not being able to access treatment is a matter of serious concern."

Source-IANS
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