South India has done fairly well in checking the spread of HIV infection in the past eight years with some high prevalence States showing a decline by 54 per cent between 2000 and 2007.

Globally, HIV infections came down to 17 per cent in the same period, and South Asia figures showed a decrease by 10 per cent, says a report of the UNAIDS released here on Tuesday.

HIV prevalence among women in the age group of 15-24 attending antenatal clinics declined by 54 per cent in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. But, the proportion of women living with the HIV in the same States rose from 19 per cent in 2000 to 35 per cent in 2008.

Women accounted for an estimated 39 per cent of prevalence in 2007 in the country.

Asia, home to 60 per cent of the world’s population, is second only to sub-Saharan African in terms of people living with HIV. India accounts for roughly half of Asia’s HIV prevalence. An estimated 4.7 million (3.8 million to 5.5 million) people were living with HIV in 2008 and the number of new infections decreased from 4,00,000 in 2001 to 350,000 in 2008, the report says.

The report, released by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organisation highlights that beyond the peak and natural course of the epidemic, the HIV prevention programmes are making a difference.

Making a special mention of the Avahan India AIDS Initiative – launched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with the ownership now being transitioned to the government – the report says that it has dramatically expanded prevention services for sex workers in the States with high HIV prevalence.

Female sex workers

Due to the efforts of the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) and the Avahan, prevention services reached more than 80 per cent of female sex workers in four heavily affected States. As prevention services for sex workers had been brought to scale in high prevalence areas of India, reported condom use during sex work is increasing and the prevalence of curable sexually transmitted infections is on the decline, the report says.

Between 2003 and 2006, HIV prevalence among female sex workers in India fell by more than half – from 10.3 per cent to 4.9 per cent. In Pune, female sex workers in the risk of becoming infected with HIV declined by more than 70 per cent between 1993 and 2002. Similarly, sharp declines in the HIV incidence were reported for male clients of sex workers, primarily as a result of increased condom use.

India has an estimated 1.8-2.9 million HIV positive cases with an adult prevalence of 0.34 per cent, according to the NACO.