In India, two out five female sex workers are HIV-positive

Kounteya Sinha, TNN | Mar 15, 2012

NEW DELHI: Nearly two out of every five female sex workers (FSWs) in India could be living with HIV infection.

Those who aren’t already infected, however, carry more than 50-times increased risk of getting infected during their lifetime.

The region where the risk of HIV infection increased most for a sex worker was Asia (29 times more) compared to a 12-time higher threat in Africa and Latin America.

A study, conducted by Dr Stefan Baral from the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, to be published by the Lancet on Thursday shows that FSWs in developing countries are 14 times more likely to be infected by HIV than women in the general population.

The authors carried out an analysis of 102 studies, representing almost 100,000 FSWs in 50 countries. Overall, HIV prevalence in FSWs was found to be 12%.

In 26 countries deemed to have medium or high background HIV prevalence, some 31% of FSWs were HIV- positive, and were 12 times more likely to be infected than women from the general population.

“We identified consistent evidence of substantially higher levels of HIV among FSWs compared with all women of reproductive age in low and middle-income countries in all regions with data,” the authors said.

“These findings suggest an urgent need to scale up access to quality HIV-prevention programming and services among FSWs because of their heightened burden of disease and likelihood of onward transmission through high numbers of sexual partners as clients. Improvement of linkages to antiretroviral treatment and retention in care is crucial. The role of stigma, discrimination and violence targeting female sex workers globally will be required to reduce the disproportionate disease burden among these women,” they added.

“When reviewing the data from the past five years, FSWs still carry more than a 50-time increased odds of HIV infection in India. Since HIV prevalence is a lagging indicator of prevention success, time is needed to reveal the benefit of these programmes in terms of the absolute burden of HIV among female sex workers in India. Nonetheless, the disproportionate burden of HIV among these sex workers, even in settings where progressive programmes exist, emphasizes the need to increase coverage by increasing scale of prevention programmes and decreasing barriers to access,” is how The Lancet summed about the situation in India.

In India, women account for around one million out of 2.5 million estimated number of people living with HIV/AIDS. The National Aids Control Organization estimates that around 4.9% of FSWs in India are HIV- positive.

The estimated number of new annual HIV infections has declined by more than 50% over the past decade. India had about 1.2 lakh new HIV infections in 2009 as against 2.7 lakh in 2000.

While this trend is evident in most states, some low prevalence states have shown an increase in the number of new infections over the past two years. Of the 1.2 lakh estimated new infections in 2009, the six high-prevalence states account for only 39% of the cases, while states like Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat account for 41% of new infections.

The adult HIV prevalence at national level has continued its steady decline from estimated level of 0.41% in 2000 through 0.36% in 2006 to 0.31% in 2009. In India, about 40% people don’t even know their HIV status.

The prevalence of HIV among key population at higher risk of infection – notably sex workers, people who inject drugs and men who have sex with men – is high in several Asian countries. However, the virus is spreading to other sections of the population through the years.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/In-India-two-out-five-female-sex-workers-suffering-from-HIV/articleshow/12271596.cms



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