India has witnessed a major reduction in the number of new HIV infections, AIDS-related deaths and people living with HIV from 2010 to 2017 on the back of sustained and focussed efforts, as per latest UN report.
The joint UN Agency on AIDS (UNAIDS) report titled - 'Miles to go - closing gaps, breaking barriers, righting injustices' reveals that Asia and the Pacific region have made a strong progress with their response to HIV.
Report: Key Highlights
• The report stated that sustained and focused efforts to reach key populations have led to major reductions in HIV infections in Cambodia, India, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam between 2010 and 2017.
• In India, the report found that new HIV infections dropped from 1, 20,000 in 2010 to 88,000 in 2017, AIDS-related deaths reduced from 1, 60, 000 to 69, 000 and the number of people living with HIV decreased from 23 lakhs to 21 lakhs in the same time period.
• The report noted that India has an approved social protection strategy, policy or framework that is being implemented.
• It, however, warned that the global new HIV infections were not declining fast enough. It also noted that the epidemic was expanding in Pakistan and the Philippines.
• The report noted that global new HIV infections declined by just 18 per cent in the past seven years, from 2.2 million in 2010 to 1.8 million in 2017.
Health benefits of decriminalising sex work
• The report underscored the public health benefits of decriminalising sex work.
• It found that countries that had decriminalised at least some aspects of sex work have fewer sex workers living with HIV than countries that criminalise all aspects of sex work.
• Based on data from Canada, India and Kenya, the report indicates that the decriminalisation of sex work could avert 3346 per cent of HIV infections over the course of a decade.
• Successive surveys in Cambodia, India, Thailand and Vietnam also indicate that attitudes towards people living with HIV have improved creating safer working conditions for sex workers and engaging them closely in the design and implementation of programmes make a huge difference.
• The report cited the example of Karnataka, where advocacy work with senior police officials, sensitisation workshops and the inclusion of HIV and human rights topics in pre-service curricula led to a significant decrease in the arrest of female sex workers, especially during police raids.
• The report revealed that before the interventions, 50 per cent of the 4,110 surveyed female sex workers said they had been arrested or detained at some point during police raids and that proportion shrank to 20 per cent after the interventions.
Cause of Concern
The report highlights the concern that the global decline in new HIV infections is not quick enough to reach the target of fewer than 500,000 by 2020.
It reveals that in 2017, an estimated 36.9 million people globally were living with HIV and 21.7 million people were accessing treatment.
It also shows that key populations are not being considered enough in HIV programming.
According to the report, key populations and their sexual partners account for 47 per cent of the new HIV infections worldwide and 97 per cent of new HIV infections in eastern Europe and central Asia, where one third of new HIV infections are among people who inject drugs.
The report highlighted that sex workers, gay men and other men who have sex with men, prisoners, migrants, refugees and transgender people are more affected by HIV but are still being left out from HIV programmes.
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