India world's No 3 in HIV; but 'gays' relatively safer

17 July 2014

India has the third-highest number of people with HIV in the world, with 2.1 million Indians affected. This also amounts to four of every 10 people infected in Asia, the United Nations said in a report on Wednesday.

The disease has killed about 39 million of the 78 million people it has affected worldwide since it hit in the 1980s, the report released by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said.

On a positive note (though not so much for India) it added that the number of people infected with HIV was stabilising at around 35 million.

 India accounted for 51 per cent of AIDS-related deaths in Asia in 2013 and 8 per cent of deaths worldwide.

At the end of 2013, more than 700,000 people in India were on antiretroviral therapy, the second-largest number of people on the treatment in any country. However, 64 per cent of those affected do not have access to antiretroviral treatment.

The number of new HIV infections declined by 19 per cent between 2005 and 2013, yet the country accounted for 38 per cent of all new HIV infections in Asia, even as it recorded a 38-per cent decline in AIDS-related deaths in the same period.

In contrast with the perception of India's all-pervasive moral police, HIV prevalence among men who have sex with other men is only between 4-9 per cent  with, presumably, visits by men to prostitutes constituting the vast bulk.

In Chhattisgarh, HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men is 15 per cent, three times the national figure.

Data indicates that more than 75 per cent of women in India who tested positive for HIV have husbands who travel far for work, such as truck-drivers and migrant labourers. In some states, nearly 90 per cent of newly diagnosed HIV infections were among wives with a migrant husband.

In Mumbai, 22.9 per cent of female prostitutes who were victims of trafficking are HIV-positive.

Data collected from interviews in India indicates that women forced into prostitution are nearly three times as likely to be HIV-positive. Around 2.8 per cent of sex workers in the country are estimated to be HIV-positive.

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