Times of India
24 November 2010
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi, India
Around 1.2 lakh Indians got infected with HIV last year, even though the incidence rate of new cases has fallen in the country by over 50% in the last decade. At present, India, which has 2.4 million HIV patients, ranks third after South Africa and Nigeria. However, the country’s HIV prevalence is still low at .31% – from .36% in 2006.
Be that as it may, though seven lakh HIV+ Indians require the life–saving antiretroviral (ART) drugs, only three lakh have access to the medicine. As far as motherto–child transmission of HIV is concerned, India recorded 18,000 pediatric HIV births off 65,000 HIV+ mothers. India records 27 million pregnancies a year.
These are the latest data from the 2010 AIDS epidemic report – the most comprehensive report on a single disease that was released by UNAIDS on Tuesday. For the first time, experts say the HIV epidemic is on the wane. At least, 56 countries have either stabilised or achieved significant fall in rates of new HIV infections.
"For the first time, we can see the world beginning to truly reverse the AIDS epidemic. Globally, it had peaked in 1999–2000. In Asia, it had peaked in 2003–04. The biggest problem in India is that too many people don’t know that they are infected with HIV. Every HIV case is preventable and to have 1.2 lakh new infections in India show that we are not doing enough," said Dr Charles Gilks, who heads UNAIDS in India. He added, "It is vital that India focuses on prevention as cost of treatment will continue to increase."
Not only has new HIV infection rate fallen by nearly 20% in the last 10 years to 2.6 million in 2009 (3.1 million people had got infected in 1999), but AIDS–related deaths have also come down by nearly 20% in the last five years. In 2009, 1.8 million people died from AIDS–related illnesses, down from 2.1 million in 2004.
Study: Anti–AIDS drug works as prophylactic
The same drug used for treating HIV can also prevent gay and bisexual men from getting infected in the first place. In a landmark study, announced on Tuesday, scientists have found that Truvada – a single daily pill containing two drugs that is being used by HIV patients – actually reduces the risk of contracting the virus by at least 44%.
In what is being hailed as the biggest success in finding a prevention tool against the deadly HIV, the iPrEx study – published in the New England Journal of Medicine – found that those, who popped the pill more than 90% of the time, were 73% less susceptible to contract HIV.
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