India can be roadmap to reduce HIV: Expert
According to a University of Toronto expert, India, which registered a decline in HIV infections in the south, can serve as a roadmap for other countries.
"There have been many predictions, mostly based on guesswork, that India's AIDS problem will explode, as it did in southern Africa, but we now have direct evidence of something positive," said Prabhat Jha, director of the University of Toronto's department of Public Health Sciences.
Jha said that Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka are estimated to account for 75 per cent of the 5.1 million HIV/AIDS cases in India, which is next highest after South Africa.
"The good news is that HIV in young adults appears to be declining in the south - most likely due to males visiting sex workers less often and due to increase in the use of condoms," said Jha.
"Indian experiences can serve as a roadmap on how to reduce HIV worldwide. Modest public health effort has turned around what was a worsening HIV epidemic. Globally, this lesson could serve countries like China and Vietnam. In fact, a large part of the world can be served to avoid the catastrophe seen in Africa," Jha said.
From a prevalence rate of 1.7 per cent in 2000, it has declined to 1.1 per cent in 2004, he added.
However, Jha said trends in the north remained uncertain and poorly studied, which was not a good news.
"North is not immune to the infection. Unless the government puts in place an effective peer intervention, as done by Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu in particular, there is a risk of the infection spreading in the northern region," he said.
"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," he said.