HIV-1 prevalence decreasing in southern India

EMBARGO: 00:01H (London time) Thursday March 30, 2006. In North America the embargo lifts at 18:30H ET Wednesday March 29, 2006.

HIV-1 prevalence has decreased by more than a third in southern India, according to an article published online today (Thursday March 30, 2006) by The Lancet.

Researchers have predicted that India will see major increases in HIV-1 prevalence. Rajesh Kumar (Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India), Prabhat Jha (University of Toronto, Canada) and colleagues investigated the prevalence of HIV-1 in young people attending antenatal and STI (sexually transmitted infection) clinics in four southern states and 14 northern states in India. The study used data from around 294 000 women and 59 000 men aged 15-34 years.

The investigators found that HIV-1 prevalence among women in the south fell from 1.7% to 1.1% from 2000 to 2004 (absolute decline 0.6%; relative decline 35%). For men aged 20-29 years attending STI clinics in the south there was an absolute reduction of 7.6% (relative reduction 36%) in HIV-1 prevalence. No significant change in HIV-1 prevalence was seen among women or men in the north. The fall in the south was seen in rural and urban areas and in educated and illiterate men. The authors conclude that the most plausible reason is increased condom use in sex work or abstinence from sex work by males.

"Strategies that focus on high coverage and quality of peer interventions of high-risk populations--with condoms, education, and negotiation skills--offer the best hope to reduce the growth of HIV-1 in India," states Dr Jha. "Such strategies are partly in place in the south, but must be extended to high coverage in each southern district. Equally important, sex-worker interventions must be replicated in the north, " he adds. (Quote by e-mail; exact version does not appear in published paper)

See also accompanying Comment.

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Contact: Prabhat Jha, Centre for Global Health Research, University of Toronto T) +1 416 864 6042 or +91-98-100-61035 prabhat.jha@utoronto.ca

Rajesh Kumar, Post Graduate Institute of Medical, Education and Research T) +91-93-161-39948 dr.rajeshkumar@gmail.com

Elizabeth Monier-Williams, University of Toronto, Public Affairs +1-416-978-5948, elizabeth.monier.williams@utoronto.ca

Notes to editors
The authors are holding a press conference on this paper in India at 12:30 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. on Thursday March 30, 2006. The venue is The Metropolitan Hotel Nikko New Delhi, Bangla Sahib Road, New Delhi, 110001, T): +91 11-52500200

There are two types of HIV virus that cause AIDS--HIV-1 and HIV-2.


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