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HIV alarm in Tripura: 828 students tested positive, 47 dead

First Published: 10th July, 2024 15:04 IST

The increase in HIV cases is particularly evident among intravenous drug users, with a positivity rate of approximately ten percent in this group

There has been a significant increase in the number of HIV cases in Tripura since 1996, the worst affected being the students.

As per senior officials of Tripura State AIDS Control Society (TSACS), Tripura currently has over 8000 HIV cases of which 828 cases are students. At least 47 students have died so far.

The increase in HIV cases is particularly evident among intravenous drug users, with a positivity rate of approximately ten percent in this group, Dr. Samarpita Datta, Project Director of TSACS told Northeast Live.

Speaking to Northeast Live, Dr. Datta said, “The present state in Tripura is alarming because we are having a rise in the number of HIV cases and as you may know that, HIV is one infection which occurs in the higher risk groups because it is not transmitted by common routes of transmission. It has some special ways, high risk behaviors which helps to transmit this infection. In this scenario, I would like to point out that we have intravenous drug users which are on the rise in the state and in view of this, we are having the rise in infectivity among these people. As of now, we can say that 87% of the infected people are in the age group of 15-30 years of age. There are more than 12 students who are below 15 years of age. So, it is actually percolating to the schools as well. Other than these, college going students are also affected. There are around 800-900 infected students. If we talk about the number of affected people in the state, it comes to around 8000. The number of deaths as per records is 47. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more cases that are undetected or not registered.”

She said that while the number of annual HIV cases in Tripura was previously low, there has been a notable rise over the past three to four years, with a current positivity rate of around one percent among those tested.

Dr. Datta cautioned that the actual number of infected students could be higher due to undiagnosed cases.

The first HIV case in Tripura was detected in 1996. Since then, the state has experienced a surge in cases, especially among high-risk groups such as students using intravenous drugs, female sex workers, truckers, migrants, and men who have sex with men. The number of reported 8,000 known HIV-positive individuals in Tripura could be just the “tip of the iceberg,” as many cases remain undetected, Dr Datta said.

The most vulnerable age group for HIV infection is between 13 to 30 years, including school-going students.

In response, TSACS and other departments of the state government are jointly conducting awareness campaigns in schools, colleges, and other institutions to educate young people about the spread, consequences, and prevention of HIV and AIDS.

Northeast Live spoke to BK Singh, headmaster of Hindi Higher Secondary School, Agartala. He emphasized the need for more inclusive awareness campaigns.

Singh said, “HIV and AIDS have become a grave concern in today’s time. It has been a matter of concern for entire Tripura. Mostly people of age group 13-30 years of age are affected. To stop this HIV menace, we should start awareness programmes in schools and colleges and take it upto the grass root level so that children of every age group should know about the consequences of this dreaded disease. The only way to stop this menace is to have proper knowledge about HIV and how we can stop it.”

He advocated engaging various sections of the society, including, clubs, NGOs and most importantly the involvement of parents, to effectively combat the spread of HIV and drug menace.

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