Sharing needles to inject drugs primary cause of increasing HIV infections: Assam Minister
Guwahati, Feb 9 (IANS) Assam Health Minister Keshab Mahanta said on Friday that injecting drugs have been identified as the primary reason for the state's rise in HIV-AIDS cases.
The minister asserted that the government has been assisting HIV-positive people with support from NGOs.
To protect the patients' confidentiality, the specifics were withheld, he said.
During Question Hour in Assam Assembly, Congress MLA Sibamoni Bora brought up the issue of the state's HIV prevalence, stating that the number of new cases has increased.
According to her, over half of the drug dealers are also affected. Bora claimed that since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, the government has not given as much attention to raising awareness about HIV.
Mahanta responded by stating that out of 89,84,519 tests conducted between 2002 and 2023, at least 31,729 HIV-AIDS infections were found in the state.
"A total of 5,791 of the 9,90,372 tests that were performed in 2023 up until December were deemed to be positive. Indeed, there has been a rise, and we are investigating," he added.
The state health minister stated that the government and NGOs were collaborating closely, particularly when it came to treating infected individuals and raising awareness among vulnerable groups.
"But we can only give you figures, we cannot specify the work being done," he said, underscoring the importance of maintaining confidentiality when addressing HIV-AIDS cases.
According to Mahanta, injecting drugs is responsible for the highest number of new instances of the virus.
"A campaign against illegal narcotics has already been started by the state government. However, more needs to be done to put an end to it completely," he stated.
The minister also said that Assam's population is rendered more vulnerable by its role as a transit hub for the rest of the Northeast, and treating patients from other states raises the state's total number of cases.
According to him, the state government has been offering all testing, counseling, and treatment facilities at various government-run and other health centers, as well as in vulnerable locations like jails.