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'India's HIV cases plunge by more than half'

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Exclamation 'India's HIV cases plunge by more than half' - July 6th, 2007

The number of people living with HIV/AIDS in India is 2.47 million, less than half of previous official estimates, according to new UN-backed government estimates released on Friday.
India was thought to have the world's biggest HIV-positive caseload with 5.7 million infections but the new estimate puts it below South Africa and Nigeria.

The new figure was calculated with the help of international agencies, including the United Nations and United States Agency for International Development.

"We have about 2.47 million estimated cases which is huge in terms of numbers," Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss told a news conference. "In terms of human lives affected, the number is still large, in fact very large. this is very worrying for us."

The prevalence level of the infection was now estimated to be around 0.36 per cent of the more than 1.1 billion population from the earlier 0.9 per cent, he said.

The Minister's comments came at the launch of the country's new $2.8-billion National AIDS Control Programme, which aims to expand free treatment for HIV-positive people and roll back the epidemic through more prevention campaigns.

Previously, the United Nations had arrived at the 5.7 million figure by using hundreds of surveillance centres to test the blood of pregnant women and high-risk groups such as injecting drug users and prostitutes over four months each year.

But a new population-based survey that took the blood samples of 102,000 people to test for HIV among the general public -- rather than specific groups -- indicated for the first time India's HIV caseload was highly overestimated.

The United Nations AIDS agency (UNAIDS) says population surveys that do not depend on someone going to a specific government clinic are 'more representative' and generate 'more accurate information' for rural areas and the male population.

Voluntary groups running anti-HIV/AIDS campaigns say the new, lower numbers should not deflect attention from the need to curb the spread of the deadly virus in a country with a crumbling government healthcare system.


http://www.financialexpress.com/late...tent_id=169300
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