Special Correspondent

Prevalence rate 0.26 p.c. opposed to the national rate of 0.36 p.c.

Too much attention paid to prevention and not enough for treatment

MUMBAI: World Bank South Asia Region vice-president Praful Patel said empirical data showing a downward trend in prevalence of HIV in places such as Tamil Nadu was a measure of the success of the anti-AIDS programme.

In the South Asia region, there was evidence that trends were reversing in the population.

Tamil Nadu has a prevalence rate of 0.26 per cent as opposed to the national rate of 0.36 per cent. In an interview to The Hindu on Thursday, Mr. Patel said the computations in 2006 of HIV positive people in India indicated that the numbers were around 2.5 to 3.1 million.

Endorsing the national statistics which had generated a controversy some time ago, Mr. Patel said the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) had engaged in a process to get the best possible estimates and the statistics was based on household surveys, medical data and surveillance studies. This was also accepted by UNAIDS and other agencies.

Reversing the trend was important, he said. One of the biggest gaps was that too much attention was paid to prevention and not enough for care and treatment. With medicines now costing below $200 as opposed to $20,000 earlier, the poor can access medical care, he said.

The National Aids Control Programme has received $250 million for its third phase. The Bank is also about to launch a programme on vector-borne diseases. Asked if AIDS programmes received disproportionate funding, he said many HIV affected people told him they wished they had malaria. A person suffering from malaria does not suffer from stigma. That was the critical factor which needed to be addressed in the fight against AIDS.

Mr. Patel was here for a Development Marketplace event, a competition among NGOs to create programmes to remove the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS. The Development Marketplace was introduced five or six years ago and 50 such events had already taken place all over the world.

Stake-holders said there were a lot of insights but little action on the ground. As many as 1,100 proposals were received from eight countries and the shortlisted 25 would receive $40,000 to implement the project over the next 18 months. “It is a performance-based contract and will be reviewed after nine months,” Mr. Patel said.

The NGOs will have to show some progress in their projects and after that, they will get the remaining 50 per cent of the amount. “At the end of 18 months, we can decide if it’s scalable or not.”