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India has the 2nd most cases of AIDS in the world
The government on Friday put the figure of people suffering from HIV/AIDS in the country at 2.5 million, a drastic reduction of around 50 per cent from last year.
Announcing the revised figure, Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said the prevalence appears to be less than the previous estimate of 0.9 per cent.
"The results show that there are an estimated 2 million to 3.1 million people infected with HIV/AIDS with a prevalence level of about 0.36 per cent," he told reporters after launching the National AIDS Control Program 3, under which steps will be taken to halt and reverse the tide of HIV epidemic in India by 2011.
"The prevalence appears to be less than the previous estimate of 0.9 per cent," he said.
The minister said with the revised figure of 2.5 million, India now stands at number three in the world for its HIV/AIDS population.
While South Africa reports the maximum number of people infected with HIV/AIDS globally, Nigeria comes second.
He said if the methodology used this year is implemented for the previous years, there is only a marginal reduction in the prevalence.
"Moreover, in terms of human lives affected, the numbers are still large and worrying," Ramadoss added.
Last year, the government had said there are 5.2 million people infected with the dreaded disease in the country, while UNAIDS had maintained that there are 5.7 million living with HIV/AIDS.
He said the estimates this year were based on two important datas -- the sentinel surveillance, which was expanded to 1,122 sites from last year's 703 sites, and the National Family Health Survey -3, a population based survey.
Despite the good news about the reduced estimates, the minister said he was concerned about how injecting drug users are being found in other areas too, thus increasing the risk of HIV/AIDS.
"It is a cause of concern for us. IDUs are not only in Nagaland and Manipur. Now, it is being reported from Punjab, Chandigarh, Delhi, Chennai and the other metro cities. We are tackling this," Ramadoss said.
He said the government has now by far a more reliable estimate of the burden of HIV disease in India.
"We have always been found fault with for underestimating the seriousness of the epidemic. That was a disturbing allegation as we were and continue to be very committed to containing and reversing the HIV/AIDS epidemic," he said adding, he was confident that the current figures were "close to the truth."
Ramadoss said for arriving at the current estimates, they consulted and got the support of WHO, UNAIDS and other partners.
The minister said that through their earlier programmes, they have been able to achieve the aim of keeping the HIV sero-prevalence below 5 per cent in the high-prevalence states, below 3 per cent in moderate prevalence states
and below 1 to 2per cent in the other states.
Citing the example of Tamil Nadu, Ramadoss said the state has shown a consistent decline in HIV prevalence in the last five years due to sustained efforts.
"We need to understand the significance of the presence of the virus in some 20 to 30 lakh people in the country against the backdrop that we also have a very high population of young and sexually active persons," he said.
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