India Sees Cut in New HIV Cases but Battle Not Over
June 16, 2011
While new HIV infections there have declined in recent years, disease-related stigma in socially conservative India remains widespread, hampering prevention efforts and causing unnecessary suffering.
"I was working as a cook and doing well for myself, but my life changed forever in 2008 when I was found to be HIV-positive," said one New Delhi resident. His wife and one of their three daughters also have HIV, and the youngest likely does too, but the four-month-old will have a definitive test only at 18 months.
"My wife is illiterate and we have three children to take care of," he said, fighting back tears. "The government does take care of our medical expenses, but we need to have some source of livelihood. I don't know when our life clock will stop ticking. I shudder to think what will happen to our children."
Between 2001 and 2009, new HIV infections in India dropped 50 percent, according to a 2010 UNAIDS report. An estimated 2.3 million people with HIV/AIDS live in India. But stigma and lack of awareness and testing could mean many infections go undiagnosed.
"Fifty percent reduction [in new infections] is a very good figure," said Charles Gilks, the UNAIDS coordinator in India. "The challenge now is to ensure that the progress and momentum are maintained. There should be no reduction in political commitment, otherwise the epidemic will rebound."
First-line antiretroviral drugs have been free and widely available through India's public health system since 2004, but second-line ARVs, while also free, are limited to just a few centers nationally. A proposed trade agreement with the European Union could affect India's generic drug industry, driving up prices of some of the world's cheapest AIDS medicines.
Agence France Presse
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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