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HIV infection cases fall in South India

Downtrend seen in HIV infections in South India, no change seen in North India.

March 6, 2006

Southern India, one of the worst HIV hit regions of the sub-continent, is witnessing a downtrend in human immuno deficiency virus infection, off late.

India is estimated to have around 5 million people infected with HIV.

According to a report from Canadian scientists, the proportion of young women infected with the virus fell by one-third, from 1.7% in 2000 to 1.1% in 2004, in the four southern states.

After studying young Indian women attending antenatal clinics and men visiting sexually-transmitted-disease clinics, the University of Toronto scientists found that in the northern states, which contain most of the population, but in which the HIV prevalence is one-fifth lower than in the southern states, the researchers did not see any major change over the same time 

The main way that HIV spreads in India is from men visiting sex workers; infected men then pass the virus on to their wives. The data indicate that either men are using condoms or learning to stay away from sex workers. Spreading those strategies to the north is the key to controlling the Indian epidemic.

The study adds to a growing number of recent reports documenting a downturn in total HIV cases, or the rate of infection, in countries including Uganda, Zimbabwe and some Caribbean nations.

Globally, however, figures are still rising. Many people are being newly infected, but the rate of new infections is dropping with prevention efforts, the disease has already attacked many of the most susceptible, and many people with the disease are dying.

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