With the profile of HIV-AIDS undergoing transformation from a life-threatening emergency to a manageable chronic infection, the World Health Organisation (WHO) urged South-East Asian countries to focus on eliminating the infection, particularly among children, by 2015.
“We are coming out of a transformative decade for the HIV-AIDS epidemic. With innovative treatment regimens, improved health services as well as political commitment, HIV-positive people who are on treatment are living longer and better lives,” said Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO regional director for South-East Asia.
“We must learn from our experiences and work to ensure that no child born gets infected with HIV,” said Plianbangchang on the eve of the World AIDS Day Dec 1.
Between 2001 and 2010, the number of people newly infected with HIV declined sharply by 34 percent in South-East Asia that includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, among others.
According to the WHO, with the expansion of facilities providing testing and counselling services, approximately 16 million people have been tested for HIV across the region.
The number of people living with HIV and receiving anti-retroviral treatment (ART) also increased 10-fold, indicating that more people were getting access to the treatment mode launched in 1996 in India.
According to the WHO Progress Report on HIV/AIDS in South-East Asia 2011, an estimated 3.5 million people were living with HIV/AIDS in 2010, including 140,000 children. Women accounted for 37 percent of this population.
The epidemic continues to be on the rise in Indonesia, although the number of new infections is showing a downward trend in India, Myanmar, Nepal and Thailand.
The report put out another picture of services in the region, saying: “A majority of people living with HIV are unaware of their HIV status. Less than one out of five pregnant women have access to HIV testing and counseling; two out of three HIV-infected pregnant women do not receive anti-viral prophylaxis.”
“Only a third of all people with advanced HIV infection are receiving anti-retroviral treatment as per the latest WHO criteria. However, more than four out of five people who have started treatment are alive and on treatment 12 months after the start of therapy,” it added.
Read more: Washington Post