A significant progress has been seen in a number of countries in Asia and the Pacific in reducing new HIV infections by over 50 per cent since 2001, but the impact appears to be slowing down with overall numbers across the region remaining largely unchanged in the past five years, a latest UN report has said. It also warns of emerging epidemics in some countries, including Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Launched at the 2013 International Conference on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, the report from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), titled “HIV in Asia and the Pacific: Getting to Zero” found that more people than ever before had access to HIV services across the region. However, inadequate focus on key populations at higher risk of HIV infection and geographical areas with higher HIV burden mean that most countries in the region were not progressing fast enough to reach global targets on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

According to the report, an estimated 4.9 million (3.7 to 6.3 million) people were living with HIV in Asia and the Pacific in 2012. Twelve countries account for more than 90 per cent of people living with HIV and of new HIV infections in the region, including India.

Regionally, the numbers of new HIV infections have fallen by 26 per cent since 2001. A number of countries have reduced new HIV infections by over 50 per cent in that time: India (57 per cent among adults), Myanmar (72 per cent), Nepal (87 per cent), Papua New Guinea (79 per cent) and Thailand (63 per cent).

But emerging epidemics are becoming evident: between 2001 and 2012, new HIV infections increased 2.6 times in Indonesia; Pakistan has seen an eight-fold increase and new infections in the Philippines have more than doubled. There are high HIV prevalence levels in some geographical areas within countries and among key populations, even in countries where national HIV prevalence rates are falling, the report said.

“The pace of progress needs to be redoubled to sustain past achievements, drive results and meet global AIDS targets,” said UNAIDS Director of the Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific Steven Kraus.

The number of people accessing antiretroviral treatment in the region has increased to 1.25 million people at the end of 2012. Numbers of AIDS-related deaths have declined by 18 per cent since 2005 to 2,70,000 in 2012 largely due to increased access to treatment.

However, nearly half of people in Asia and the Pacific who were eligible for treatment were not accessing it and rate of increased access is slowing down (up 13 per cent in 2011-2012 compared to 20 per cent in 2010-2011).

Keywords: HIV treatment