More than 5m HIV+ patients have no access to treatment

NEW DELHI: First, the good news. More than four million HIV positive adults and children were receiving the life saving anti-retroviral therapy(ART) in low and middle income countries at the end of 2008 — one million more (36% increase) than in 2007 and a 10-fold increase in five years.

The bad news, however, is this — despite the increase in treatment and care, more than five million of the 9.5 million HIV-infected people needing ART, still have no access to treatment.

Times of India

NEW DELHI: First, the good news. More than four million HIV positive adults and children were receiving the life saving anti-retroviral therapy (ART) in low and middle income countries at the end of 2008 — one million more (36% increase) than in 2007 and a 10-fold increase in five years.
The bad news, however, is this — despite the increase in treatment and care, more than five million of the 9.5 million HIV-infected people needing ART, still have no access to treatment.

Globally, 33 million people are living with HIV. In 2007, 2.7 million new infections were recorded of which 3.7 lakh were children.

India is among the top 20 countries which recorded the highest percentage increase in the number of people receiving ART between 2007 and 2008 — from 1.58 lakh to 2.34 lakh (48% increase).

The number of facilities with HIV testing and counselling facilities in India increased from 4,269 in 2007 to 4,817 in 2008.

However, most of the figures, according to a new report released jointly by WHO, UNICEF and UNAIDS on Wednesday, look grim for India.

While 80,000 pregnant women living with HIV require ART so that they don’t pass on the deadly virus to their new born child, only 10,673 received the treatment till the end of 2008.

Only 16% of pregnant women in India were tested for HIV. Just about 22% children born to Indian women living with HIV were receiving ART for preventing mother-to-child transmission.

Only around 56% of the targeted sex workers in India have been reached with HIV prevention programmes in the past 12 months. Only 34% of sex workers and 32% of men who have sex with men in India –populations most at risk of infection — were tested in the past one year for infection and who know the results. Around 7% of injecting drug users in India have already got infected with HIV.

According to the report, more than half of all the people living with HIV remain unaware of their infection status.

WHO director-general Margaret Chan said, “This report shows tremendous progress in the global HIV/AIDS response. But at least 5 million people living with HIV still do not have access to life-prolonging treatment and care.”

“Although there is increasing emphasis on women and children in the global HIV/AIDS response, the disease continues to have a devastating impact on their health, livelihood and survival,” said Ann M Veneman, UNICEF executive director.

The south-east Asian region too has abysmal figures — 4.43 lakh people received ART till December 2008 while 11 lakh require it. The number of children younger than 15 years receiving ART in this period is 23,400 while 47,000 require it — a 49% coverage.

The number of pregnant women living with HIV who received ART in December was 18,100 while 65,000 women require it (28% coverage).

In 2008, only 38% of the 7.3 lakh children estimated to require ART in low and middle income countries like India had access to it.

The report, however, pointed to some positive developments. Prices of the most commonly used ART declined by 10-40% between 2006 and 2008. And more countries have health facilities providing HIV testing and counselling services — from 52 countries in 2006 to 81 countries in 2007 and 119 countries in 2008.

 



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