Aarti Dhar, The Hindu, 26 May 2006
With injection, HIV becomes generalised epidemic
# Women bear the burden
# Report calls for monitoring systems
NEW DELHI: The pattern of drug use in the northeast has changed significantly over the last 30 years, according to a United Nations report released here on Wednesday.
Heroin smoking by youth in the early 1970s marked the beginning of this transition, followed by injection of drugs in the early 1980s, with its additional health and social problems including HIV. The last few years saw the use of amphetamines (stimulants), says the report, "Drug Use in the Northeastern States of India."
Most users are male; women constitute only 5-10 per cent but are most affected as they bear the burden of drug use by family members.
Ninety per cent of drug users are using injections in Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram.
Some of the best efforts at combating drug abuse have come from local youth, including women affected by the problem.
Some of the path-breaking initiatives have been achieved through self-help groups, many spearheaded by women.
Manipur and Nagaland saw injection of drugs leading to HIV expanding from a concentrated epidemic among drug users in the late 1980s to a generalised epidemic a decade later. In Mizoram too, the epidemic appears headed for generalisation. Equally worrying is increasing evidence that the sexual partners of drug users are becoming infected with HIV.
The report calls for establishing effective drug use monitoring and reporting systems for all the eight States. These systems should be linked to HIV surveillance mechanisms. Given the hostility faced by drug users, planned and sustained advocacy with the community at large is a crucial step in fostering support for different intervention approaches.
Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Meira Kumar released the report here in the presence of Antonia Maria Costa, executive director, UN Office on Drugs and Crime.