India still under siege of AIDS epidemic

India’s claim that its HIV/AIDS epidemic has stabilised was questioned by leading epidemiologists at the 17th International AIDS conference in Mexico City.

Experts say that evidence shows that new high risk communities have emerged who may give a completely different picture to the epidemic.

Migrant workers, men who have sex with men and transgender – form the new face of India’s AIDS epidemic.

Epidemiologists tracking the disease say emerging data shows that these high risk groups, who are beyond the government’s radar, can derail the country’s fight against the disease.

Dr Geoffrey P Garnett, professor at Imperial College, UK said, "It is wrong to believe that the epidemic has stabilised. What has happened is that new infections equal deaths, so it seems that the numbers have plateaued."

Mohuya Chaudhuri, for

Epidemiologists say the contours of the epidemic isn’t clear so far.

Though the data shows that it is still concentrated among certain groups like sex workers and intravenous drug users, infection rates among vulnerable groups like migrant labourers, especially women and men who have sex with men have not been mapped yet.

The government admits there is little data so far on these groups since they are largely invisible and difficult to access.

But given the daunting numbers – 22 million men are believed to have sex with men – the government needs to move fast if the epidemic is to be contained.

Currently, surveys are being conducted and new strategies devised. Clearly, the battle against AIDS is far from over.

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