Advocates in India Shift Focus Toward Preventing Spread of HIV Among Injection Drug Users
Some HIV/AIDS advocates in India are shifting their approach to fighting the country's epidemic from promoting condom use and safer-sex practices among commercial sex workers, truck drivers and migrant laborers to largely targeting injection drug users, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports. Indian officials estimate that about 100,000 IDUs live in the country, but the United Nations says the number could be as high as one million. About 10% of HIV-positive people in India contracted the virus through injection drug use, according to the country's National AIDS Control Organization. NACO Director Sujatha Rao said advocates are aiming to continue the success of health workers in southern India, where HIV cases among young people have decreased, according to a study published earlier this year in the journal Lancet. In the study, researchers said that although efforts by the Indian government, the World Bank and other nongovernmental organizations to educate high risk groups about HIV/AIDS have been effective, prevention efforts should aim to reach a wider audience that includes IDUs. Officials believe that most of India's IDUs live in the northeast region of the country, but officials say the number of IDUs has increased elsewhere in recent years, particularly in urban areas, because of easier access to drugs. "We are already scaling up programs for harm reduction and to wean away users from illicit drugs," Rao said. In addition, there are about 114 needle-exchange facilities nationwide. "The HIV risk is much higher with injecting drug users," Denis Broun, who runs UNAIDS' India program, said, adding, "With unprotected sex, the risk of contracting HIV is about one in 200. However, when people inject directly with a tainted needle or syringe, the risk is as high as one in 10" (George, AP/International Herald Tribune, 11/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.