Need to scale up HIV response for those at higher risk, say experts

The National AIDS Control Organisation has estimated 63,000 new infections and 42,000 AIDS-related deaths in 2022 in India, says N. Kumarasamy, secretary-general of AIDS Society of India

November 29, 2023 08:29 pm | Updated December 02, 2023 10:00 am IST - CHENNAI

There is a need to scale up HIV response for those who are at relatively higher risk, experts have called out ahead of this World HIV/AIDS Day on December 1.

In a press release, N. Kumarasamy, who is also the secretary-general, AIDS Society of India, and chief and director, VHS Infectious Diseases Medical Centre, said that according to UNAIDS, India has the third highest burden of HIV in the world with an estimated 24 lakh persons living with HIV in 2022. The National AIDS Control Organisation has estimated 63,000 new infections and 42,000 AIDS-related deaths in 2022 in India.

He said that data-backed science has long raised the alarm on low coverage of HIV services among those who are most at risk, such as the key population. The overall HIV prevalence in adults in India is 0.24%. The HIV prevalence among various groups stood at 1.9% in sex workers, 3.3% in gay men and other men who have sex with men, 3.85% in transgender people and nine per cent in people who inject drugs.

While the HIV prevalence in prisoners is 1.9%, the coverage of antiretroviral therapy is only 28.7% in prisoners, he said. “If current trends continue, more than 1.2 million persons will be newly infected with HIV in 2025 . Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can prevent HIV acquisition but is still not implemented widely in India. Efforts should be made for the accessibility of PrEP medications for the communities,” he said, according to the release.

He pointed out that non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke and renal failure are on the rise among persons with HIV. Appropriate linkages for the care of these NCDs are essential for persons living with HIV. The theme of World AIDS Day 2023 is “Let the COMMUNITIES Lead”. The world can end AIDS, with communities leading the way. Organisations of communities living with, at risk of, or affected by HIV are the frontline of progress in the HIV response. Communities connect people with person-centred public health services, build trust, innovate, monitor implementation of policies and services, and hold providers accountable, he added.

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