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HIV infection rate in India continues to be high; Maharashtra, AP, TN, Karnataka lead

A total of 82,000 lakh new HIV cases have come to light in the country in the first quarter of the current financial year, a slight increase from last year, according to the latest government data.

According to the numbers, India’s share of total HIV infections is higher than 10% of the global total, with Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka having the worst records.

A total of 13.2 lakh (1.32 million) Indians with HIV have been registered at various times since the epidemic started spreading in the 1980s. However, the many of them have since succumbed to AIDS and passed away.

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, a debilitating condition that weakens the immune system making the person an easy pray for diseases which increasingly have a tendency to turn fatal.

The government said around 4.26 lakh (0.426 million) of the HIV infected persons are currently suffering from AIDS, according to its numbers.

The numbers are from the government of India’s ART (anti retro-viral treatment) centres and are not an exhaustive statistic on the number of AIDS patients in the country. The government gives free ART drugs to anyone infected with HIV and showing signs of AIDS in an effort to prolong their lives as much as possible.

The latest such numbers, however, show that HIV continues to spread at uncomfortable rate among Indians. From 0.302 million new HIV infections registered at ART centres in 2008-09, it rose to 0.319 million in 2009-10 and 0.317 million last year.

In the first three months (quarter) of this year, however, 82,000 new cases have been reported. If the infection continues to spread at this rate, this year will see 0.328 (32.8 lakh) new cases this year.

Going by a WHO estimate of 2.7 million new infections globally in a year (2009), India now accounts for more than 10% of the total yearly HIV infections in the World.

The reported deaths from AIDS have been increasing more rapidly, going from around 18,700 three years ago to 30,000 last year. During the first three months of the current year, 6,950 deaths have been reported from AIDS.

The numbers also reveal that four adjoining states — Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh — account for 70% of India’s AIDS patients. They account for more than 3 lakh of the total 4.3 lakh registered AIDS patients.

In the so-called high-prevalence states, around 3.8% of the population is estimated to be carrying the virus, according to 2006 statistics, compared to 0.12% to 1.29% prevalence in other states.

Northern states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Bihar have comparatively lower rates, as does Kerala, the only Southern state to escape the large scale impact of the menace (see chart.)

In India, AIDS is spread mostly through commercial sex workers, as shown by the fact that AIDS patients have a higher proportion of men (57%) compared to women.

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