|Year : 2008 | Volume
| Issue : 3 | Page : 156-159
Profile of clients tested HIV positive in a voluntary counseling and testing center of a district hospital, Udupi, South Kannada
A Kumar, P Kumar, M Gupta, A Kamath, A Maheshwari, S Singh
Department of Community Medicine, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal - 576 104, Karnataka, India
|Date of Submission||24-Oct-2007|
|Date of Acceptance||02-May-2008|
Department of Community Medicine, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal - 576 104, Karnataka
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
| Abstract|| |
Background: The growing menace created by the HIV/AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) has alarmed not only the public health officials but also the general community. The Voluntary Counseling and Testing Centre (VCTC) services have begun as a cost-effective intervention in reversing this epidemic. Objectives: 1. To study the sociodemographic characteristics of HIV-positive clients and their risk behaviors. 2. To elucidate the reasons for their visit to the VCTC and know the problems anticipated by the clients after revealing their HIV-positive status. Study Design: A cross-sectional record-based study. Materials and Methods: The study was conducted in August 2007 among clients who tested positive for HIV in the VCTC of a district hospital in Karnataka from January to July 2007. Results: Study included 249 individuals, of whom 64.7% were males, 88.7% (age, 15-49 years), married (72.7% males and 84.0% females) and literate (females 71.5% and males 85.7%). A high percentage of nonresponse regarding the pattern of risk behavior was noted among the subjects (males: 42.8% and females: 90.9%). Of the individuals who responded, 91 males (98.9%) and 6 females (75.0%) had multiple heterosexual sex partners, while 1 male had homosexual partner. The figures in females show that two (25%) of them had a history of blood transfusion. The reason for visiting the VCTC were cited as some form of illness (33.3%), confirmation of test results (32.9%), family members diagnosed as HIV positive (12.9%) and 11.6% were referred from Directly Observed Treatment Scheme (DOTS) center. More than three quarter of the sample population anticipated discrimination at the time of medical treatment. Conclusion: People have begun using VCTC services, which reflects a change in their attitude toward HIV. The study provides us a clue to formulate an effective approach to educate people as well as the health personnel who are thought of as one of the important sources of discrimination.
Keywords: Discrimination, HIV positive, risk behavior, VCTC
|How to cite this article:|
Kumar A, Kumar P, Gupta M, Kamath A, Maheshwari A, Singh S. Profile of clients tested HIV positive in a voluntary counseling and testing center of a district hospital, Udupi, South Kannada. Indian J Community Med 2008;33:156-9
|How to cite this URL:|
Kumar A, Kumar P, Gupta M, Kamath A, Maheshwari A, Singh S. Profile of clients tested HIV positive in a voluntary counseling and testing center of a district hospital, Udupi, South Kannada. Indian J Community Med [serial online] 2008 [cited 2020 May 30];33:156-9. Available from: http://www.ijcm.org.in/text.asp?2008/33/3/156/42051
| Introduction|| |
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is a global pandemic and has grown into a public health program of unprecedented magnitude. According to the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) epidemic update, December 2007, released by the UNAIDS and World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 33.2 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide.  The prevalence rate of HIV in adults varies in different regions from 5% in the Sub-Saharan Africa, 0.3% (Middle East), 0.5% (Latin America), 0.9% (Eastern Europe) to 0.6% in North America (AIDS Epidemic Update 2007).  It is estimated that 90% of the HIV-infected persons live in the developing countries with the estimated number of Indians being 2.7 million.  Overall, the average prevalence rate of HIV in adults in India is approximately 0.36%, and it accounts for 10% of the global HIV burden and 65% of that in the South and South-East Asia.  Counseling for HIV and AIDS has become a core element of a holistic model of health care; in this model, psychological issues are recognized as integral to patient management. Both pre- and post-test counseling have become standard components of prevention-oriented HIV antibody testing programs.  The Voluntary Counseling and Testing Centre (VCTC) now known as the ICTC (Integrated Counseling and Testing Centre) provides a key entry point for the 'continuum of care in HIV/AIDS' for all segments of the population.
The sentinel surveillance carried out in October 1999 revealed that the state of Karnataka has a high prevalence of HIV infection.  A number of factors contribute to Karnataka's vulnerability to the HIV epidemic. It is bordered by three states that have well-established and further growing HIV epidemics (Maharashatra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh). Karnataka shares many demographic and economic ties with these neighboring states. There is an extensive migration to and from these states, and major transportation routes connect Karnataka with them. Certain economic and social factors also contribute to Karnataka's vulnerability to this epidemic. Poverty levels are high, leading to economic pressures that promote commercial sex work.
The data collected in the present study from the VCTC of a district hospital in Udupi, Karnataka, may provide important clues regarding the epidemiological profile of HIV-positive individuals.
| Materials and Methods|| |
The present study was conducted in the VCTC of a district hospital in Udupi situated in southern Karnataka. Udupi is flanked by the verdant mountains of the Western Ghats on the east and the vast and the tranquil Arabian Sea on the west. According to the 2001 India census, the district has a population of 963548 with 51% females. The average literacy rate is 83%, higher than the national average of 59.5%.
From January to July 2007, of the data of total 2586 attendees at the VCTC who were either volunteers or referred from other institutions, the study included that of 249 HIV-positive patients (9.6%). Information for all the attendees of the VCTC was available from the records maintained at the VCTC regarding variables such as age, gender, marital status, education and occupational status, residence, behavioral patterns, discrimination anticipated, support expected. In the present study, only the data from patients who tested positive for HIV at the VCTC was included. This information was recorded when the client visited the VCTC for the first time and most of them were unaware of their status of HIV infection. HIV was diagnosed by performing enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) by using two different antigens and a rapid test as recommended by the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO). Data was collected and analyzed using the SPSS software version 11.5.
However, the current study is subject to certain limitations since it was conducted in a district hospital; therefore, the results are based on the reporting and data collection by the personnel employed in the VCTC. Information regarding certain variables such as socioeconomic status, substance abuse, counseling performed and condom use are not available. All these variables could have unmasked certain behavioral patterns and could have given new dimensions to this study. The study setting being a district hospital decreased its external validity.
| Results|| |
The male population constituted 64.7% (161) of the total study subjects. [Table 1] clearly shows the sociodemographic profile of the attendees with positive test result. A majority of the study subjects, i.e., 221 (88.7%) belonged to age group of 15-49 years with 7 (2.8%) subjects being less than 14 years of age. The distribution according to marital status showed that 72.7% of males and 84.0% of females were married of which 11.1% of males and 44.4% of females were divorced, separated or widowed.
The literacy rate among the female subjects was found to be 71.5%, while that in males was 85.7%. The most common source of income for males (48.8%) was semi-skilled occupation, such as bidi rolling and fishing. Among females, 30 (34.2%) were housewives and 23 (26.1%) were working as housemaids or laborers. The unemployment rate among the study subjects was 7.3%. All females and 149 males (93.1%) resided with their family members.
Approximately half of the study subjects (50.6%) had visited the VCTC voluntarily, while almost a similar percentage (49.4%) of the subjects was referred to the VCTC by another doctor. Among the reasons cited for their visit to the VCTC, illness (medical or surgical: 33.3%) was the leading cause, followed by 32.9% who visited for the confirmation of their test result. More than one-tenth (12.9%) of the study subjects had the family members (spouse/parents) who were positive for HIV and 29 (11.6%) were referred from a Directly Observed Treatment Scheme (DOTS) centre for detection and treatment of tuberculosis.
Among the total subjects, 69 males (42.8%) and 80 females (90.9%) did not respond to the question on the pattern of risk behavior followed. Of the subjects who responded, 91 males (98.9%) had multiple sex partners and 1 was involved in homosexual practices. Among the females, six (75.0%) were having multiple sex partners and two (25%) had a history of blood transfusion [Table 2].
The expectation of the subjects regarding the social support after testing positive shows that 31.7% candidates were in favor of individual counseling by counselors, 23.7% preferred family counseling and 18.6% preferred one to one discussion with doctors. The views of the study subjects regarding problems they would face after disclosing their HIV status revealed that a large percentage of subjects (79.1%) believed they would be discriminated at the time of medical treatment. A small number of subjects, i.e., eight (3.2%) anticipated a disturbance in their marital life, and an almost equal number, i.e., five (2.0%) believed that they would be discriminated by their other family members.
| Discussion|| |
The prevalence of HIV seropositivity in VCTC clients in the present study was noted to be 9.6%, which is lower than that reported from a study conducted in a district of West Bengal (17.1%) in 2003. 
The present study highlights the fact that males contributed to 64.7% of the case load in VCTC with 35.3% being the females. These figures are slightly lower than the national average of 38.4% for females. Such a high proportion of infection rate in females is a cause for concern since this will lead to a proportionate increase in the children being infected due to transmission from mother to child. It is believed that HIV/AIDS affects the bread winners of the society, which is also evident from the results of this study. According to the study, 88.7% of the subjects belonged to the age group of 15-49 years (the most sexually active age group), which is slightly lower than the national figure (90%) and the figure obtained from another study (92.4%) conducted at a VCTC in Darjeeling. 
The present study clearly indicates that 93% of the infected males and 100% of the infected females are living with their families. The information regarding their disclosure of the test result to their family members is not available and hence it is difficult to say whether such a high level of acceptance by the family, especially toward females will be maintained even after the disclosure or not.
The pattern of risk behavior shows that a large percentage of males (98.9%) and females (75%) of those who responded to the study, had multiple sexual partners. However, none of the women was working as a commercial sex worker. Heterosexual contact was the commonest mode of transmission, which is supported by the findings of another study from eastern India.  A large part of the married women (44.4%) who were HIV positive were separated, divorced or widowed. This can be explained by the strong family ties and inhibitions that Indian females have as a part of culture. A large part of the study subjects (42.8% males, 90.8% females) did not disclose their risk status in the questionnaire. The figures for the risk status were 29.9% in males and 53.8% females in a study conducted in West Bengal (2003).  This can be attributed to the fear of discrimination or punishment, which still prevails in the society toward HIV-infected individuals.
The major problem anticipated by the subjects was observed to be from the health personnel at the time of medical and surgical treatment. This could be a reason for only 18% subjects responding in favor of doctors as the best option for their support. More than half of the subjects were in favor of counseling since it is gaining importance in the current era as an important step toward normalizing the attitude to HIV and improving the environment for the prevention of its transmission. Another important finding of the study shows that approximately 3% of the subjects actually believed they would be discriminated by their family members, while the remaining thought that they would be easily accepted. This can be attributed to the increasing awareness among the people by the combined efforts of health care personnel and media. This assumption can also be explained by a large percentage of subjects coming to VCTC on their own without being referred by someone else. This was in contrast to the figures reported from a study in Chennai (2004-05) where only 3 of the total 89 HIV-positive patients had visited voluntarily for testing. 
The current study highlights the existence of HIV-TB collaboration, which is evident from the study since 29 subjects (11.6%) had been referred from the DOTS centers.
| Conclusion|| |
The high prevalence of seropositivity in the attendees of VCTC in a district hospital in Karnataka highlights the importance of this issue for the policy makers as well as health professionals. The medical fraternity should take a stand and fight against the discrimination of sufferers, rather than ostracizing them to have a positive attitude from HIV sufferers. Increased availability and the use of VCTC services will prove to be a huge potential benefit for the society.
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[Table 1], [Table 2]