A glimmer of hope: HIV infection drop in South India

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Dr. K. Venu, chief of Hyderabad’s Government General Chest Hospital, treats an unrelenting stream of patients who come to the hospital for Tuberculosis treatment only to find that they have AIDS. In India, TB is the most lethal opportunistic infection preying on those weakened by AIDS.

Despite the human toll he witnessed over the past decade, Dr. Venu remains optimistic about controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS.

He might have reason to be hopeful.

A study published March 30, 2006 in the British medical journal, The Lancet, provides a glimmer of hope.

The research, conducted by a joint Indian and Canadian team, found that India’s safe sex awareness campaign has had a dramatic impact on reducing HIV infection rates in South India—the epicenter of India’s AIDS crisis. The study suggests that HIV infection rates have fallen by a third in the worst hit regions of South India.

The research tracked HIV infection rates at the clinics where people normally find out they are infected, including among young women attending pregnancy clinics, and young men attending sex disease clinics.

The researchers studied HIV prevalence data from 294,050 women attending 216 antenatal clinics and 58,790 men attending 132 sexually transmitted infection clinics in the north and south from 2000 to 2004.

Despite his optimism, Dr. Venu warns that while the trend is encouraging, there is no time for apathy.

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