India has made remarkable progress in combating HIV/AIDS over the last ten years by reducing the overall exposure to this killer disease by 50 per cent, says a global report issued by a U.N. agency on the epidemic.

Besides, the Indian drug companies played a vital role in supplying the first-line drugs for HIV/AIDS patients in poorest African countries at phenomenally cheap prices, the UNAIDS said in its report.

“India reduced HIV/AIDS by 50 per cent while its pharmaceutical companies played a major role in care and treatment by supplying 86 per cent of the first line drugs to the poorest countries,” said Mr Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS’ executive director.

Around 2.4 million estimated people are living with HIV last year In India as against 2.5 million in 2001.

The UNAIDS’ latest report suggested that around 33.3 million people were estimated to be living with HIV.

“We are breaking the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic with bold actions and smart choices,” said Mr. Sidibe, cautioning that the disease will stage a comeback if adequate funding is not made possible by both international donors and domestic spending by the developing countries.

Over the last eight years, the rate of new HIV infections stabilised or decreased by more than 25 per cent in at least 56 countries around the world, especially in the poorest African countries.

Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the region most affected by the epidemic with 69 per cent of all new HIV infections.

While there have been significant improvements in treatment which increased by seven and half times over the last five years with 5.2 million people accessing live-saving drugs in 2009, around 10 million people are still with without treatment. In India, over 600,000 HIV patients are without treatment.

He praised the Vatican for giving the green signal for the use of condoms which was treated as a religious taboo until recently. “The Pope’s latest announcement on condoms will have significant impact on HIV-prevention,” he argued.

The Eastern Europe and Central Asia, including Russia, have become the epicentres for the spread of HIV/AIDS in the recent years.

In Asia, including India, the spread of HIV/AIDS is concentrated in some mega cities because of large scale migration of poor people in search of employment and their exposure to sex workers.

Besides, man-to-man sex (MSM) and increased use of syringes by drug addicts in North-East have also witnessed sharp increase over the last ten years in India.

Global funding for AIDS dipped last two years because of the economic crisis in the Western countries.

Rich countries in Europe have dropped their funding for AIDS by over USD 600 million, leaving small countries to fetch funds from their domestic sources.

In India, the total expenditure for HIV/AIDS from both international and domestic is to the tune of USD 1.4 billion last year as against USD 1.5 billion in 2008.

The government which relies on Global Fund and other international donors must cater more resources from its domestic budgetary sources, said the UNAIDS chief.