How drugs were used to spread HIV among over 800 students in Tripura

Tripura is facing a devastating HIV epidemic among its student population, largely due to injecting drug use. According to officials of the Tripura State AIDS Control Society (TSACS), 828 students have tested positive for HIV and 47 have tragically lost their lives due to the epidemic.

Extent of the HIV epidemic

The crisis has spread to 220 schools and 24 colleges and universities in Tripura, where injecting drug abuse among students has facilitated rapid transmission of HIV. TSACS officials reported detecting five to seven new cases daily, underscoring the urgency of tackling the situation comprehensively. At a media workshop jointly organised by the Tripura Journalists Union, Web Media Forum and TSACS, senior officials underscored the gravity of the situation. “We have so far registered 828 HIV-positive students. Of them, 572 are still alive and we have lost 47 people to this dreaded infection,” a senior TSACS official said.

Data collection and analysis
Data collected from 164 health facilities across the state provided critical insights into the geographic and demographic spread of the outbreak. The TSACS deputy director noted, “Reports are being collected from almost all blocks and subdivisions before making this presentation.”

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Impact on wealthy families
The crisis has disproportionately affected students from wealthy families, often with both parents working in public services. Officials noted that such families can meet their children’s demands, but drug use and HIV infection are often detected too late to allow for effective intervention.Antiretroviral therapy and response efforts
As of May 2024, antiretroviral therapy (ART) centres in Tripura have registered 8,729 people living with HIV. These centres play a crucial role in providing ongoing medical care and support to those affected. Efforts to combat the epidemic include intensified medical interventions, public awareness campaigns, and community engagement initiatives. The HIV epidemic in Tripura underscores the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to address injecting drug use among students and mitigate the spread of HIV. By raising awareness, improving medical support, and encouraging community engagement, stakeholders aim to limit the impact of the epidemic and safeguard public health.

(With contributions from YOU)