India Must Enhance HIV/AIDS Programs in Two Densely Populated States, Among High-Risk Groups, Country’s AIDS Director Says
India needs to scale up its HIV/AIDS programs in the two densely populated states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and among high-risk groups such as commercial sex workers and injection drug users, S.Y. Quraishi, director of the country's National AIDS Control Organization, said in an interview on Thursday, Reuters India reports. HIV prevalence for the adult population in the two northern Indian states is less than the nationwide average of 0.92%, but the two states have a total of about 255 million residents and each has thousands of villages with little or no access to health care facilities. "Even if a fraction ... of these people have HIV/AIDS, it will spell disaster," Quraishi said, adding, "There is illiteracy, poor health services, more migrant labor and less empowered women in these states." HIV/AIDS education is more difficult to conduct in the states because of low literacy rates, according to officials. The literacy rate is 47% in Bihar and 56% in Uttar Pradesh. Quraishi said another challenge for the country is to "saturate" high-risk populations with HIV prevention messages. More than 85% of HIV cases in India are attributable to unprotected heterosexual intercourse. Some married men contract HIV from commercial sex workers and then transmit the virus to their wives, according to Reuters India. NACO says its health workers have identified and contacted nearly 45% of India's commercial sex workers since the agency was formed in 1992, and it hopes to reach 80% by 2008 (Zaheer, Reuters India, 7/21). UNAIDS estimates that 5.1 million HIV-positive people live in India, and NACO says about 103,000 of those people are living with AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.