The April 23 issue of Science magazine features a series of articles on India's AIDS epidemic, the second part of an occasional series of articles on HIV/AIDS in Asia leading up to the XV International AIDS Conference to be held in Bangkok, Thailand, in July. Brief summaries of the articles appear below:
- "HIV/AIDS: India's Many Epidemics": India's more than one billion people "speak different languages, practice different religions and customs -- and face different AIDS epidemics," Science reports. An estimated 3.8 million to 4.6 million HIV-positive people live in the country, and 85% of the cases are attributable to heterosexual transmission. Although the HIV/AIDS epidemics differ in different parts of the country, "similar forces across the country aid and abet the spread of HIV, including strong taboos about discussing sex, the limited power that many women have and widespread discrimination against the infected," according to Science. Although "a wave of international aid has started to pour in," many experts fear that the virus could spread out of control if efforts to fight the disease are not scaled up, Science reports (Cohen, Science, 4/23).
- "Sonagachi Sex Workers Stymie HIV": The article discusses India's Sonagachi Project, which operates a health clinic and hires sex workers to provide peer education on HIV/AIDS prevention. Many experts believe the program is a model for other areas of India, as well as other countries (Cohen, Science, 4/23).
- "The National AIDS Research Institute's Long Reach": NARI, which is one of the world's only national research institutes dedicated to HIV/AIDS, has a widespread effect in Pune, India, where its headquarters are located. The institute conducts clinical trials examining HIV-related tests and medicines and basic science research into the virus itself. However, "NARI has one obvious shortcoming: its tentacles rarely stretch beyond Pune," Science reports (Cohen, Science, 4/23).
- "The Needle and the Damage Done": Although HIV transmission via shared needles accounts for fewer than 3% of India's HIV cases, the prevalence of the virus among injection drug users in India's Manipur state was almost 40% in 2003, according to Science. Without much government support, local AIDS clinicians and nongovernmental organizations operate harm reduction programs that distribute clean needles and condoms, provide health care, run detoxification programs and endorse the view that drug use is a disease and not a crime, Science reports (Cohen, Science, 4/23).
- "Till Death Do Us Part": HIV-positive women, who account for about one-fourth of HIV-positive people in India and many of whom had arranged marriages, often are rejected by their in-laws, Science reports. One AIDS physician believes that an inquiry regarding a potential groom's HIV status should become commonplace in Indian tradition, and she has introduced HIV-positive men and women to each other, some of whom have married (Cohen, Science, 4/23).
The first part of the series on HIV/AIDS was published in the Sept. 19 issue of Science. Reporting for the series was supported in part by a fellowship to Science correspondent Jon Cohen from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
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