//Surat tops again, this time in HIV

Surat tops again, this time in HIV

Prathima Nandakumar,[ Wednesday, February 15, 2006 11:11:22 pm, TIMES NEWS NETWORK

SURAT: If there is one boom that is taking the sheen off the diamond city, it is the alarming spread of HIV.

Surat has the highest prevalence of HIV in Gujarat among female sex workers (FSW) and gay men (MSM) according to a recent sentinel surveillance of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases (STD) carried out by six NGO partners and Gujarat State Aids Control Society (GSACS).

It has pointed out that Surat is highly vulnerable as 13.20 per cent of female sex workers have been infected with HIV, while among gay men, it is 15.60 per cent.

In fact, GSACS calls it a "concentrated epidemic" as even five per cent HIV prevalence is considered epidemic. The prevalence rate in the general population (low risk groups) has remained static at three per cent.

But the high-risk groups show an alarming trend. Huge migrant population in Surat is suspected to be responsible for high vulnerability, states Gujarat State Aids Control Society, which is all set to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Orissa government.

 "Once the MoU is in place, migrants from Orissa heading to Surat or Alang might find themselves being escorted by HIV peer educators. "That’s not all.

On their arrival at Surat, they will post a card bearing their local address to the nearest NGO working on HIV. This will ensure better healthcare and HIV awareness to migrants," says Dr Rajesh Gopal, additional project director, Gujarat State Aids Control Society.

"A mapping of sexual behaviour in Surat has identified at least 2.6 lakh migrants from Orissa alone," adds Gopal. Recently, GSACS expanded the targeted intervention groups from 21 to 25, which includes migrants.