HIV/AIDS Cases in India About Half of Previous Estimates, Health Minister Says
The number of people estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS in India is about 2.47 million, or half of previous estimates, according to United Nations-backed government estimates released on Friday, Indian Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss announced, Reuters reports (Zaheer, Reuters, 7/6). UNAIDS estimates from 2006 said that there were about 5.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS in India (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/3).
The new estimate decreases India's HIV prevalence from 0.9% to 0.36%, Ramadoss said. The new estimate was calculated with the assistance of international agencies, such as the United Nations and USAID. According to Reuters, the earlier estimate was based on blood samples taken from pregnant women and high-risk groups, such as injection drug users and commercial sex workers. The new estimate was based on a population-based survey that took blood samples from 102,000 people to determine HIV prevalence among the general population. Population-based surveys are "more representative" and yield "more accurate information" for rural areas and for the male population, UNAIDS said.
Ramadoss said that although there are fewer HIV-positive people in the country than previously thought, the "number is still large, ... this is very worrying for us" (Reuters, 7/6). According to AFP/Yahoo! News, organizations that work to prevent HIV transmission among men who have sex with men, IDUs, sex workers and other high-risk groups will continue their prevention efforts despite the lower prevalence estimate (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/6).
Gates Foundation, Clinton Foundation To Scale Up HIV Prevention, Treatment Programs in India
In related news, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Clinton Foundation recently announced plans to scale up HIV prevention and treatment programs in India, despite the lower HIV prevalence estimate, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the Journal, the foundations have said that although HIV prevalence in the country is lower than previously thought, the virus could become more widespread.
The Gates Foundation will focus its efforts on HIV prevention, while the Clinton Foundation will focus on expanding access to antiretroviral drugs. The Clinton Foundation plans to work with Indian pharmaceutical companies to provide access to discounted antiretrovirals. In addition, the Clinton Foundation plans to train 150,000 Indian physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of HIV/AIDS and add more than 10,000 Indian children to its treatment program, the Journal reports (Chase, Wall Street Journal, 7/6).
Ramadoss' announcement on Friday coincided with the launch of India's new $2.8 billion National AIDS Control Program, which aims to expand access to no-cost antiretrovirals and increase prevention efforts in the country (Reuters, 7/6). The World Bank on Thursday signed a loan agreement with India for $250 million to support NACP during the next five years, The Hindu reports. The loan will be used to scale up prevention programs and to increase care, support and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS, according to The Hindu (The Hindu, 7/6).
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Friday reported on the new HIV/AIDS caseload estimate in India. The segment includes comments from James Chin, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California-Berkeley; Karen Stanecki, an adviser in the UNAIDS epidemiology unit; Pav Govindasamy, who coordinated previous health surveys in Ethiopia; and Chris Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (Wilson, "Morning Edition," NPR, 7/7). Audio of the segment is available online.
In related news, "Morning Edition" on Friday reported on a hospital in Panchgani, India, that offers no-cost treatment to people living with HIV. The hospital's director, Father Tomy Karyilakulam, has launched for-profit enterprises -- including a private boarding school and a nursing college whose graduates work at the hospital -- to support the facility. The segment includes comments from Karyilakulam (Neel, "Morning Edition," NPR, 7/7). Audio of the segment and expanded NPR coverage are available online. Reporter Joe Neel is a Kaiser Family Foundation media fellow.