Success in fight against HIV but S-E Asia area of concern

aidsNEW DELHI: Massive success has been achieved in the fight against HIV, but still more than 50 per cent of people living with the infection in South-East Asia region are either not linked to care or not aware of their status, a senior WHO official said here.

On the occasion of World Aids Day, Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia Poonam Khetrapal Singh said the success has come due to concerted efforts through civil society movements, supported by national and international commitments and scientific research.

“Massive gains have been achieved in our fight against HIV. We now have more than 10 million people on HIV treatment globally. Efforts continue and are being accelerated to achieve the ambitious target of ending AIDS by 2030,” she said.

In the WHO South-East Asia region, as of 2013, there were around 3.4 million people living with HIV and 1.1 million of them are currently on treatment as against 83,000 people in 2004.

“We have managed to increase the coverage 12-fold in a decade. The HIV epidemic in our region is concentrated among populations most vulnerable to HIV: men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who inject drugs, sex workers, people in prisons and other closed settings. Although we have been successful in scaling up the health sector response for the vulnerable populations, more needs to be done,” said Khetrapal.

Stigma, discrimination and restrictive laws continue to be barriers to access of prevention, care and treatment services, Khetrapal said.

This year, WHO has launched an updated Consolidated Guidelines on the use of antiretroviral drugs for treating and preventing HIV infection, diagnosis and care.

“These are guided by human rights principles and call for governments to enforce protective laws to eliminate discrimination and violence faced by key populations,” Khetrapal said.

Further, she said WHO is releasing a new update to recommend antiretroviral drugs as an emergency prevention intervention following possible HIV exposure for HIV-negative individuals and to prevent and manage common infections that affect many people living with HIV.

Medicine access for HIV people
World Vision India, a charitable organization, has called for urgent intervention to ensure that people living with HIV and AIDS get life-saving antiretroviral Therapy drugs (ART) in India.

World Vision India in association with the Lawyers’ Collective organized multi-stakeholder consultation, focusing on spreading awareness about access to drugs as well as diagnostics for People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and building a public support base towards resolving this issue.

They also urged decision makers to pass the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill 2014.

“Over 8.5 lakh Indians depend on ART drugs to lead a relatively healthy life. Once a patient starts the therapy, medicine needs to be taken daily with proper adherence, or else the drugs quickly lose their effectiveness. Once this happens, PLHIV have to switch to a second line of treatment which is five-times more expensive than first-line drugs,” said Daisy David, Advocacy Officer, World Vision India.

While the access to drugs is a major area of concern, the long-pending HIV Bill is yet to be passed by the Indian Parliament. The Bill was drafted in 2006, and aims to protect the rights of people infected and affected by HIV, and provides for protection of HIV-positive people and their family members from stigma and discrimination.

“HIV has long gone past being a medical problem and is now an issue that cuts across social, economic, psychological, medical, and human rights parameters.

“While the HIV bills aims to provide protection against human rights violations and recently achieved the milestone of being tabled in the Rajya Sabha, it has a long way to go before being passed as law,” said Anand Grover of Lawyer’s Collective.

To spread awareness on the unavailability of ART drugs, World Vision India is also organizing a photo exhibition titled ‘Ek Nazar’.

The UN estimates that India currently has the third largest population of people living with HIV in the world, with around 2.2 million affected by the disease.

Men contract HIV more than women
INDORE: A total of 31,966 people tested positive for AIDS in last six years in Madhya Pradesh, according to MP AIDS Control Society.

Of the total number, 60.50 per cent constitute male and experts said men contracted HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) primarily due to unsafe sex.

Indore was among places where the spread of disease was high in the state.

“Men have fallen prey to the disease mainly due to unsafe sex practice,” city-based government Maharaja Yeswantrao hospital’s Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) Department Head Dr Shivshanker Sharma told PTI.

He said that males suffer from the disease more than females nationwide, adding that it was primarily because men establish physical contact with multiple partners.

Dr Sharma said that drivers and others who were in professions involving extensive traveling contract HIV in a large number. He also attributed unsafe homosexual intercourse as a key reason causing AIDS among men. -PTI