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doi:10.1038/nindia.2012.178 Published online 1 December 2012

India's HIV infections halved in a decade

On World AIDS Day 2012, India declared a 57 per cent reduction in new HIV infections in the last decade — from 2.74 lakh adults infected in 2000 to 1.16 lakh in 2011.

India's health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, while releasing the country's HIV estimations for 2012 in New Delhi last evening, said the country's AIDS control programme was a success owing to its emphasis on the 'prevention and care' model.

The stage is slowly being set for the country to reach the 'zero new infections' stage. That is a major challenge now. "We have to ensure that the treatment requirements are fully met without sacrificing the needs for prevention," Azad said.

"Since a large proportion of the population are not infected with HIV, prevention remains the cornerstone of the programme," he said. India relied on targeted intervention for high risk groups, condom promotion and strong awareness campaigns for general population to bring down the numbers significantly during the last decade. Care, support and treatment have increased access to testing and treatment services, he added.

India's estimates of new AIDS cases rests on data generated by the latest round of HIV Sentinel Surveillance completed in 2011. It utilised 'improved methodology and updated epidemiological data' and was supported by national and international experts, epidemiologists and demographers from National Institute of Medical Statistics, UNAIDS, WHO, CDC and other public health institutes of India.

The estimates project around 1.16 lakh new HIV infections among adults and around 14,500 among children during 2011 (). The six high prevalence states — Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur and Nagaland — account for 31 per cent of new infections among adults.

While the number of new cases in the high prevalence states was going down, Azad noted that there was a rising trend in some of the low prevalence states. "Our programme has evolved focused prevention strategies to address these emerging vulnerabilities," he said.

The total number of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) in India was estimated at 21 lakh in 2011. The total number of people who died of AIDS related causes stood at about 1.48 in that year. Free anti retroviral therapy (ART) since 2004 had saved over 1.5 lakh lives in the country, the minister claimed.