At least six out of every ten security personnel who undergo blood exams in Kashmir are reported as infected with HIV, a deadly virus that causes AIDS.
Experts at the AIDS-related treatment center in SKIMS say at least sixty percent of the armed forces personnel, who approach the facility for AIDS detection, are inflicted with the disease. They, however, declined to give out the break up of those infected with the deadly virus.
So far, there has been no authoritative survey on the health condition of large number of armed forces in Kashmir. Knowledgeable sources said the rotation of duties among security forces and army could be a major risk factor vis-à-vis AIDS.
Doctors in Kashmir have raised concern over the fresh increase in the number people with HIV+ve cases.
“60 per cent of the security forces, who come here for testing, are detected positive; this is a matter of serious concern. The rate for drug addicts is 100 percent,” senior medical office, Anti-Retroviral Treatment Centre, S-K Institute of Medical Sciences, Dr. Latief Ahmad told the Kashmir Observer.
“The state has a huge concentration of military and paramilitary forces that are high risk groups – for infecting and being infected. They live away from their families and might have indulged into the unsafe sex, which is one of the reasons for the infection,” he said.
He said in a conflict ridden state of Jammu and Kashmir, growing numbers of people need blood transfusion and HIV infection can be transmitted through unsafe blood transfusion.
The experts say that the drug abuse has emerged as a major social problem in Kashmir, especially among the youth, so this too has become one of the main reasons of adding to the cases of HIV positive cases in the valley.
According to the official records, around 30 per cent of cases registered with the Centre have been found effected due to drug addiction.
While the official figures at centre reveal that out of around 434 HIV-AIDS patients registered- 40 are females among 15 children.
“There is a dire need of sensitizing people about the HIV- AIDS. We are facing a challenge from the people about their coming forward for the testing. A good per cent age of people has apprehensions to come forward due to social stigma attached to it,” the doctor said.
Medical Superintendent at SKIMS, Dr Syed Amin Tabish said the center is trying to target the high risk groups for sensitization, besides trying to aware people in this regard.
“I cannot comment on the security forces, this is something which comes under the department of Immunology but yes there is good number of their percentage , they also come under high risk groups, you cannot rule that out,” he added.
AIDS was until recently unknown to Kashmir. But there’ve been above 90 AIDS deaths since 2000, officials said.
According to the figures available at Jammu and Kashmir State Aids Prevention and Control Society (JKSAPCS), there are 2573 total aids patients in the valley which include 434 in Kashmir and 2139 in Jammu division.
JKSAPCS has roped in Imams and other preachers from other religions to educate people on HIV. “The initiative draws inspiration from Uganda and Indonesia, where such messages are being propagated through imams.”
-via Kashmir Observer