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India ‘winning’ battle against HIV-AIDS: UNAIDS report

India’s fight against HIV-AIDS is bearing fruit. The UNAIDS Report-2013 on HIV said that the country has reduced new HIV infections by as much as 57% among adults since 2001. Binod Dubey reports.

world Updated: Nov 20, 2013 15:42 IST
Binod Dubey

India’s fight against HIV-AIDS is bearing fruit.

The UNAIDS Report-2013 on HIV said that the country has reduced new HIV infections by as much as 57% among adults since 2001.

UNAIDS – the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS – is a global advocacy group working for “accelerated, comprehensive and coordinated global action” on the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the UNAIDS works in coordination with the World Health Organisation.

The UNAIDS Report-2013 was released here on Tuesday at the 11th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific.

India has been notorious for contributing to the disease burden to the world over the years.

On the other hand, the report said that, Pakistan has seen an eight-fold increase in the number of cases and new infections in the Philippines have more than doubled.

The report, however, noted that there is a definite progress across the region on the HIV front.

“The pace of progress needs to be redoubled to sustain past achievements, drive results and meet global AIDS targets,” said UNAIDS director of the regional support team for Asia and the Pacific, Steven Kraus.

“Efforts should be more focused on smart investments in right places and on programmes to reach the people in greatest need. Communities of people living with HIV and key populations at higher risk must continue to be central to the region’s AIDS response - as agents of change,” he added.

Lauding the role of India in containing the menace, the report titled HIV in Asia and the Pacific: ‘Getting to zero’, said seven actions initiated by India changed the course on HIV epidemic in the country. They are leadership, information, focus, thinking big, doing the right things, managed network and strong systems.

About the leadership, the report said, “The detection of India’s first HIV in 1987 led to the establishment of a national strategy working group. Since the early 1990s, India’s political leaders have provided consistent support for large scale-prevention for key populations.”

On strong systems applied by India, the UNAIDS report said, “Policy and donor coordination are centrally managed, while programme implementation is decentralised through state and district AIDS control societies. These quasi-autonomous agencies provide flexibility and speedy decision- making.”

“The state-level societies are headed by senior civil servants, which ensure the engagement of government bodies. A strong management system for monitoring the work of public sector and civil society provided quality assurances.

Similarly, strong central management through a national AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) provides better management of external partners so that investments are directed to where they are need,” the report added.

The states in India with high HIV-AIDS rates include Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra but the bulk of the patients are from the northeastern states of Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland. In the northeast, the spread of the disease is said to be through use of infected syringes by intravenous drug users.

Commenting on the report, regional communication adviser (UNAIDS), Asia and the Pacific, Beth Magne-Watts, said though there was significant progress on HIV front, “we should continue striving hard for getting to zero”.

“We must not take rest till we achieve the goal,” she added.

People living with HIV in the region in 2012 : 4.9 million
New infections in 2012: 3,50,000, 26% decline since 2001
People on antiretroviral treatment 2012: 1.25 million
AIDS related deaths in 2012: 270000