India registers 50% dip in new HIV cases: UN

New Delhi: Good news for the country in combating AIDS as a United Nations report today said India has registered a 50 per cent dip in number of new cases of HIV infections in this decade.

Though the UN remarked the dip in new infections as an "outstanding contribution" in the fight against the disease, it also asked India to do more in containing transmission of HIV from mother to child, an area in which Malaysia and Thailand have done tremendously well among Asian countries.

"In the last decade, India has registered a 50 percent reduction in the number of new infections. It is an outstanding contribution," Charles Gilks, Country Coordinator (India) of UNAIDS, said at the release of the report here.

According to the report, the number of new infections were 0.24 lakh (24,000) a year 10 years ago while it is 0.12 lakh a year at present.

Every day, the report said, more than 7,000 people are newly infected by HIV, including 1,000 children. AIDS have claimed more than 2.5 crore lives globally and more than six crore people have become infected with HIV in the past 30 years after the disease was detected.

Gilks said the global efforts have got some result as the one is witnessing a reverse trend in spread of AIDS. "The efforts have paid rich dividends. In India alone, four lakh people are on Anti Retroviral Therapy," he said.

However, Peter Piot of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Nedicine, cautioned that it was "too premature to cry victory". He said, "We have the tools to fight the disease. But what we lack is a political commitment," he said.

Heidi Larson of London School of Tropical Medicine said steps like decriminalisation of homosexuality in India were a positive step and will have a deep impact on the fight against the disease.

Gilks noted that the disease was becoming more feminised globally with more and more women falling in the high risk category. According to the report, 51 percent of the affected persons were women.

The report noted that although global HIV incidence is now declining, manby countries have failed to satisfy prevention commitments. As a result, it said, the epidemic continues to outpace the response, with two people newly infected for every individual who started ART in 2009.

"With the number of people receiving ART increasing 13-fold from 2004 to 2009, the number of AIDS related deaths declined by 19 percent during the same period. Still, the epidemic continues to exact severe consequences. From 2005 to 2009, the number of children orphaned by AIDS increased from 1.46 crore to 1.66 crore," it said.

The report said investments in the AIDS response were yielding results with new infections declining, treatment access expanding and world making significant strides in reducing HIV transmission from mother to child.

"Between 2001 and 2009, the rate of new HIV infections in 33 countries fell by at least 25 percent. By the end of 2010, 60 lakh people were on antiretoviral treatment. And for the first time, in 2009, global coverage of services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV exceeded 50 percent," it said.

In 2009, it said, an estimated 3.33 crore were living with HIV, which is an increase of 27 per cent from 1999/ Globally, nearly 23 per cent of all people living with HIV are younger than 24 years and people belonging to 15-24 years accounted for 35 per cent of all people becoming newly infected.

The world will not be able to "sharply" lower the rate of HIV transmission without paying attention to the prevention needs of key populations at higher risk of exposure, it said, adding that only 26 per cent of the countries had established prevention targets for sex workers, 30 per cent for people who use drugs and 18 per cent for men who have sex with men.

It said clinical trial results demonstrated that a vaginal microbicide could reduce a woman`s risk of becoming infected during sexual intercourse. "If confirmed, these findings will help close a critical gap in the prevention toolkit, an effective prevention method that women may initiate on their own," it said.