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INDIA: UN report spotlights HIV/AIDS rates in children

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

NEW DELHI, 6 June (PLUSNEWS) - The total number of HIV/AIDS cases in India has reached an estimated 5.7 million, surpassing South Africa’s 5.5 million cases, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said in its 2006 report, released last week.

The UNAIDS 2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic counted children under 15 years and adults over 49 when assessing infection rates.

“While the 15-49 age group is the most sexually active and most vulnerable, children below 15 and adults above 49 are also infected by HIV. So we have to pay attention to this,” Ruben Del Prado, Deputy UNAIDS Country Coordinator in India, explained.

But infection rates compiled by India’s National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) are lower than those of UNAIDS because they do not include children and the elderly.

The discrepancy between government and UNAIDS figures has hit the headlines in India and the controversy has succeeded in turning the spotlight on children, to date, the missing face of the spread of HIV/AIDS in the world’s second most populous country.

The epidemic’s impact on children needs to stimulate greater awareness of the causes of infection among children, as well as more widespread interventions to prevent parent to child transmission of HIV and paediatric AIDS, activists say.

"We are failing children," said Dean Hirsch, Chairman of the Global Movement for Children, which issued an urgent appeal to governments, donors and the pharmaceutical industry to recognise a child's right to treatment as fundamental.

The movement, made up of seven organisations, released a report last month that painted a grim global picture of the impact of the disease on children: 700,000 children were infected with the HIV virus in 2005, bringing the total to 2.3 million, and 570,000 died of AIDS — one every minute.

Less than five percent of HIV-positive children have access to the pediatric AIDS treatment they desperately need, the report said.

Treatment remains an extraordinary challenge in India, as in many other countries in the world, despite recent initiatives to provide anti-retroviral drugs (ARV) to those who need them. Less than 10 percent of people needing ARVs in India received them in 2005, the UN report noted.

Unsafe sex and low condom use, labour migration for extended periods and injecting drug use, especially in the northeast, are factors fuelling the Indian epidemic. The low status of women, which weakens their ability to negotiate safe sex and the widespread stigma associated with the virus are other reasons why HIV/AIDs is spreading in India.

Sex remains a taboo subject in India. But unprotected heterosexual intercourse continues to account for more than 80 percent of infections in this country of 1.1 billion, the report said.


Recent INDIA Reports
Treatment without literacy can be dangerous,  10/Nov/06
New study reveals HIV/AIDS stigma in hospitals,  24/Oct/06
HIV/AIDS battle spreads to rural areas,  6/Sep/06
HIV/AIDS awareness among gay men neglected,  25/Jul/06
HIV-infected children present their case ,  26/Jun/06
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance

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