Canacona taluka records sharp rise in HIV cases


PONDA: Even as the state maintained its trend of an overall drop in the number of HIV cases for the fourth year in a row, the southernmost taluka, Canacona, has recorded a disturbing rise.
Statistics of the Goa State AIDS Control Society (GSACS) show 14 persons contracted the virus up to October this year as against four persons in the corresponding period last year; a rise of over 300%. The state's apex body for control of HIV/AIDS in Goa, incidentally, doesn't receive data of blood tests done at private laboratories, so the numbers-including the overall for the state-could be higher, said officials.
The only other taluka to see a rise in HIV numbers this year is Ponda-two up from 26 recorded last year. Most of the other 11 talukas have seen declines.
Commenting on Canacona's rise in numbers, GSACS project director Dr Rajananda Desai said the tourist-centric beaches in the taluka-Palolem and Galgibaga-could have contributed to the overall numbers. The coastal belts of the state have always been considered very vulnerable to the virus.
Remarkable declines in numbers were recorded in Salcete (52; down 34 from last year's 86), Mormugao (77; down 37 from last year's 114), Tiswadi (33; down 26 from 59), Quepem (10; down nine from 19) and Pernem (4; down seven from 11). Dips were also seen in Bicholim (14; down four from last year's 18), Sanguem (12; down four from 16) and Sattari (14; down one from 15).
GSACS' statistics also show an increase in the number of those who succumbed to full-blown AIDS this year.
Eighty-one persons-57 men, 23 women and a transgender person-succumbed to AIDS between January and September 2012 as against 90 who died between January and December 2011.
Commenting on this, Desai said, "HIV takes several years to turn into full-blown AIDS. Those who died would have contracted the virus seven to eight years ago." She added that up to October this year 486 people have tested positive for HIV, while 76 are currently living with AIDS.
Desai stressed that HIV cases have been on a decline in Goa for the last four years. While around 1,019 persons contracted the virus in 2008, the numbers dropped to 959 in 2009, 821 in 2010 and 665 in 2011. Of these 105 HIV-infected persons developed AIDS in 2008, 184 in 2009, 154 in 2010 and 106 in 2011.
Stating that GSACS has so far tested the blood samples of just 3,62,414 people for HIV (the state's population is over 15 lakh), the project director said there could be more people with HIV in Goa.
"We work with high-risk groups that include commercial sex workers, and men who have sex with men. While most have tested for the virus, there may be some who have not come forward to test themselves," said Desai.
She added, "Besides, there may be some people who have done their blood tests at private laboratories. These laboratories do not provide their data to GSACS and their figures are therefore not on record." [TOI]