DEHRADUN: A screening of drug addicts in Udham Singh Nagar has revealed that 15 of them recently contracted HIV by sharing syringes to inject drugs multiple times. According to health officials, the department is now planning to trace the family members of these people to test them and provide counselling. Notably, of the 1076 new cases of HIV in Uttarakhand this year, 85 are from Udham Singh Nagar alone. Also, Uttarakhand has 8.89% chances of Intravenous (IV) drug addicts getting HIV infection which experts say is among the highest in India.
Talking to TOI, chief medical officer (CMO) of Udham Singh Nagar, Dr Shailja Bhatt, said that the local police and an NGO working with health department had raided some areas where the locals complained of seeing drug-peddlers and addicts.
“When the 15 arrested people were brought to the hospital, they admitted to using syringes to administer drugs. We got them HIV tested and all of them were HIV-positive,” said the CMO who added that all the drug addicts were presently in a rehabilitation centre run by an NGO and will be moved to Dr Sushila Tiwari Medical College Hospital in Haldwani shortly.
“We have requested the police to trace the families of all these drug addicts as it is possible that their wives and even children could be infected with HIV and they, too, should be provided with treatment and counselling,” said Dr Bhatt who informed that the health department has tracked 85 new HIV cases in Udham Singh Nagar between April to September this year (including these 15).
According to Uttarakhand HIV/AIDS Control Society data, the state has 11,105 HIV/AIDS patients which were registered from April 2002 till June this year. Among the 11,105 cases, 1294 have died.
Almost 4,000 HIV-positive cases were reported in the state in last four years. In 2016, the state reported 822 HIV-positive cases while in 2017, the number rose to 829. In 2018, HIV cases in Uttarakhand were 967 which increased to 1076 in 2019.
“As many as 7,477 HIV patients are registered with Anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centres here but only 4,283 patients are taking regular treatment,” said Dr AS Sengar, additional project director of the state AIDS control society who added that there are many in need of assistance but social stigma attached to the HIV-infected is keeping them away from benefits given under the state-sponsored programmes.
“Uttarakhand has 8.89 % chances of IV drug addicts getting HIV infection which is highest in India. Our major concern is this and we are trying hard to tackle this through awareness and counselling,” Dr Sengar said.