'HIV among Karnataka women down 50 pc'

'HIV among Karnataka women down 50 pc'

'HIV among Karnataka women down 50 pc'

Prevention works

Since the epidemic peaked globally in 1996, there are now some encouraging signs that HIV prevalence among young women in three southern Indian states, including Karnataka, has declined by 50 per cent in the last seven years.

According to UNAIDS’s latest report – released earlier this week – HIV prevalence among 15-24 year-old women attending antenatal clinics in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu declined by 54 per cent between 2000 and 2007.

“The good news is that we have evidence that the decline we are seeing is due, at least in part, to HIV prevention,” said UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe in a live telecast from Shanghai.

But Sidibe observed that the findings also showed that prevention programmes were often off the mark, and that if NGOs and the government did a better job of organising programmes where they would impact the most, quicker progress could be made, saving more lives.

Upward trend

On the flip side, prevalence among men who have sex with men (MSM) has seen an upward trend in the southern states. In southern India, between 7.6 and 18.1 per cent of all HIV infections are MSM cases.

The MSM statistics from the southern states are comparable with some of the most prevalent MSM destinations in Asia like Myanmar (29.3 per cent) Bangkok (30.7 per cent), Chongqing city in China (12.5 per cent) and Indonesia (5.2 per cent).

The MSM population in Asia face the odds of nearly one in five being infected with HIV.
 In the last seven years, the proportion of women living with HIV in Asia increased from 19 per cent in 2000 to 35 per cent in 2008.

In India, women accounted for an estimated 39 per cent of HIV-positive people in 2007, says the UNAIDS.

According to the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), India has an estimated 2,400,000 HIV-infected people. Since it is an estimate, the actual range varies from 1,800,000 and 3,200,000 with a prevalence rate of 0.34 per cent. On the MSM, the UNAIDS and NACO figures do not differ much.

While UNAIDS presents a range pertaining specifically to south India, the NACO estimates 7.41 per cent of all HIV cases are MSM incidences. Globally there are 33.4 mn people living with HIV/AIDS. The corresponding figures for East Asia and South and South-East Asis are 850,000. and 3.8 mn, respectively.

In the last one year, 75,000 fresh people picked up the infection in East Asia. The same region also witnessed death of 59,000 AIDS deaths. In south and SE Asia 280,000 people get new infections whereas 270,000 died in AIDS in 2008. Asia, home to 60 per cent of the world’s population, is second only to sub-Saharan Africa in terms of people living with HIV. India accounts for roughly half of Asia’s HIV prevalence.

Incidentally, more people are living with HIV than ever before, thanks to the antiretroviral therapy (ART) and population growth. Even the number of AIDS-related deaths has decreased by about 10%  in the last five years, as more people are getting access to life saving treatment.

UNAIDS and WHO estimate that around 2.9 mn lives have been saved, since the availability of effective treatment in 1996. ART has also been crucial in preventing new infections in children, with HIV+ mothers gaining faster access to treatment. In fact, around 200,000 new infections among children have been prevented since 2001, the report suggests.