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Globe And Mail Examines HIV/AIDS Rate In India

The Globe and Mail writes that “[w]hen India announced in 2007 that it had 2.3 million people living with HIV, rather than the 5.7 million reported the year before, the government first attributed much of the change to better data collection. Many in the AIDS field were skeptical.”

Anjali Gopalan, head of India’s Naz Foundation said, “We and all the other AIDS organizations think the number of people accessing services is increasing, so why are the infection numbers so low?” However, others say “more and more research points to a substantial change in sexual behaviour and with it a decline in the spread of HIV,” according to the newspaper.

“‘The decline is real. The numbers have plausibility and credibility,’ says Prabhat Jha, an epidemiologist who directs the Centre for Global Health Research in Toronto, and was an architect of India’s early AIDS-control program. ‘There has been a profound change in behaviour among clients and sex workers that accounts for most of the drop,'” the Globe and Mail writes. The article examines the mass distribution of condoms, media and educational campaigns, and the status of women in India, compared to efforts and cultural norms in Africa.

Despite progress, the newspaper writes: “HIV remains of critical concern here [in India]: With 2.3-million infected people, this country has the third-largest burden of HIV-AIDS in the world, and has succeeded in getting treatment to fewer than half of the people who need it.” Also, “[t]he successes achieved have been mostly in the richer south of the country.” In the north, “weaker governments and health systems … have yet to embark on serious AIDS-control programs” (Nolen, 8/31).