Ending AIDS

Written by The Financial Express | Updated: Jul 19 2014, 07:40am hrs
The UN believes it is becoming increasingly possible for HIV/AIDS to be brought under control by 2030, before it is eventually ended. The progress globally is encouragingsince 2001, new infections have dropped by 35% while AIDS-related deaths have gone down by 35% from the 2005-peak. Anti-retroviral therapy (ART), the preferred line of medication for HIV virulence mitigation, as per UNAIDS, was reaching nearly 12.9 million eligible people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA) at the end of 2013. It doesn't meet even the halfway target for ART coverthe WHO says nearly 28.6 million PLHA were eligible for receiving ART in 2013but the momentum is encouraging. There were only 5 million PLHA receiving the drug in 2010.

In this backdrop, it is important to reflect on India's standing in the fight against HIV/AIDS, given it bears the third-highest burden worldwide. While new infections in the country dropped last year by 19%, they still accounted for 38% of the total in the entire Asia-Pacific region. This is not to say that the country has not been able to mount an effective campaign. New infections, as per the National AIDS Control Organisation, have come down by 57% between 2000 and 2011. But, as the regional figures for new infections show, it is paramount that the country steps up its efforts to spread awareness about transmission wider and to greater effect. Another, perhaps more important, concern is that ART reaches only 36% of the PLHA eligible for it in India. A little over half the people who died on AIDS-related conditions in 2013 in the Asia-Pacific region were Indians. Thus a lot more needs to be done to expand ART outreach. More so, given how the 2012 report of UNAIDS commended India's AIDS response, noting that 80% of the ART drugs worldwide were generics developed in India, saving billions of dollars and easing the fight for low-income nations.