The fear of stigma and discrimination is still putting vulnerable people off from getting tested for HIV, health experts said on the eve of World AIDS Day today.
The devastating effects of HIV/AIDS can be mitigated through early use of antiretrovirals but this is only possible if people at risk get themselves tested early enough, Dr R Allya, project director at the Meghalaya AIDS Control Society (MACS) said.
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) centres in government-run health facilities provide medicines free of cost as well as counselling for HIV patients. MACS has been trying to encourage early testing by organising health camps and through social media campaigns, Dr Allya added.
She informed that there are 5,857 registered people living with HIV in the state, though she admitted that the real number could be a lot higher, with MACS estimating that the true figure is closer to 11,000. There are also 286 children living with the virus.
Fear of stigma and discrimination has also meant that there are around 1,600 people who have tested positive, begun ART but have gone missing, usually because they provided an incorrect phone number or address.
There are also 44 people living with HIV who have opted out of ART, for one reason or another, mainly denial, unwillingness to take medicines or religious faith.
The MACS official also informed that the main causes of infection in Meghalaya are unsafe sex, intravenous drug use and via mother to child.