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India has seen a sharp increase in the reported number of people who are HIV positive, according to the new estimates for 2002 released by India's National AIDS Control Organisation.
Between 3.82 million and 4.58 million people are HIV positive, according to the figures that were released on the eve of the first national convention of elected political representatives on HIV and AIDS held in New Delhi last weekend and organised jointly by India's National AIDS Control Organisation and UNAIDS.
The rise in 2002 represents a higher increase (0.61 million more cases than in 2001) than the rises in previous years (0.21 million between 1998 and 1999; 0.18 million between 1999 and 2000; and 0.11 million between 2000 and 2001).
The new sentinel surveillance survey indicates that India continues to be in the category of countries with a low prevalence of HIV infection. Its overall prevalence is less than 1%, Dr Meenakshi Dutta Ghosh, project director of the organisation, told the BMJ.
“There has been a decline in HIV transmission through blood and blood products from 6.07% in 1999 to 2.99% in 2002,” said Dr Ghosh. She added that the transmission of HIV among injecting drug users also declined from 5.29% in 1999 to 2.87% in 2002. Meanwhile, the mother to child transmission of HIV has increased from 0.33% in 1999 to 2.61% in 2002.
Elected parliamentarians and legislators from all political parties across India attended the convention to discuss the HIV/AIDS situation in India.
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee cautioned that in states such as Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, and Nagaland, the prevalence of HIV infection had reached more than 1% among women attending antenatal clinics. This marked a turning point for its spread among the general population.