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Gujarat Records Fall In AIDS Cases

The Indian State of Gujarat has registered a fall in the number of AIDS patients. The decline has been to 3.6% in 2004 from 4.48% in 2003.// Where the low risk group is concerned, it declined to 0.13% in 2004 from 0.38% in 2003. The 2005 figures are expected to be even lower.

Says Laxman Malodia of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation-run AIDS Control Society: "We have 5,636 HIV positive cases registered in the state, of which 779 are in the city. If the number of fresh cases had been increasing rapidly, the cases registered would have doubled.

"There are 200 to 210 fresh cases registered every year. We do not have the complete data for 2005, but I don't think it would surpass the figure."

However, sociologist and AIDS awareness activist Gaurang Jani from Ahmedabad feels that the monitoring system is not well equipped to present a true picture on the prevalence of AIDS.

"The prevalence rate of the disease is determined by taking data from a limited number of government hospitals. Of course, 25 NGOs are also into testing HIV now, but this is not enough. Therefore we have to rely on this limited data," he said.

Malodia disagrees: "Although several patients who get themselves tested in private clinics are never reported directly, they finally turn up at the government hospitals, which alone can provide them with proper treatment. So, ultimately they get reported."

Campaigners meanwhile have something more to pin their hopes upon, the fact that HIV positive cases have not shown any marked increase.

According to the last survey of the high-risk conducted in 2003, only 13.2% of the female sex workers were found positive.

"Compared to the high numbers of infected persons in Mumbai's sex industry, the situation in Ahmedabad is less alarming. This is primarily due to increased awareness about AIDS among the sex workers," said Jani.

"The change is due to more than 150 organizations actively working with sex workers in slum areas," said Jani.

Edited IANS

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