Mar 31, 2006

War on AIDS: Beginning of the End?

The best news in the war against AIDS in India is that there is a drop of 35% in new HIV cases. This is definitely good news. This could be the beginning of the end of the war on AIDS at least in South India where it is more prevalent. The most worrying is the data from North India, which I fear could be highly misleading one now. The BIMARU states have everything to help AIDS become an epidemic there. Low literacy levels meaning less awareness and coupled with migration of men folk to big cities for livelihood, is a potent mix, which can only help the AIDS virus to proliferate.

In what experts call the “best news on AIDS for India,” an Indo-Canadian team of scientists has come up with the first definitive evidence that the AIDS epidemic is slowing down in at least southern India, considered the the cradle of the disease in the country. This essentially means that the prevention program seems to be making headway and gloom-and-doom scenarios of AIDS in India need to be put into perspective
While data from north India is still cause for worry, the Lancet study reports that prevalence of HIV-1 (the most common variant of the virus in India) prevalence fell in the southern states from 1.7% to 1.1%—a relative reduction of 35%.
According to the research group, in recent years, the Indian government, the World Bank and other agencies have aimed intervention and awareness programmes aimed at sex workers and their efforts appear to have contributed “to a drastic decline.”
“The good news is that HIV in young adults appears to be declining in the south—most likely or perhaps only due to men keeping away from red light area or using condoms more often when they do. The not-so-good news is that trends in the north remain uncertain and poorly studied.”
“among urban and rural women and among educated or illiterate women.” Kumar cautions that while the findings are good news, the battle is far from over. “HIV remains a huge problem in India and we have to remain vigilant,” he said. “We’re not saying the epidemic is under control yet—we are saying that prevention efforts with high-risk groups thus far seem to be having an effect.” [IE]

Related report in The Washington Post.

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