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World AIDS Day: Is India winning the fight against new HIV infections?

In India, around 23.49 lakh people were living with HIV as of 2019, with annual new HIV infections showing a 37 percent decline over a decade, according to official estimates.

December 01, 2020 / 01:26 PM IST

The World AIDS Day is observed on December 1 to show support for people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and remembering those who lost their lives from Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) related illnesses.

In India, around 23.49 lakh people were living with HIV in 2019, official estimates released this year show. “The HIV epidemic has an overall decreasing trend in (the) country with estimated annual new HIV infections declining by 37 percent between 2010 and 2019,” the government said in a reply to a question in Parliament in September 2020.

Commemorated since 1988, the World AIDS Day always has a theme, and this year it is "global solidarity, shared responsibility". Across the world, 78 million people have been infected with HIV and 35 million have died from the illness since the first case was detected more than 35 years ago, according to UNAIDS.

In 2019, an estimated 1.7 million new infections were reported around the world, down 23 percent from 2.1 million in 2010, and recording a fall of 40 percent from its high of 2.8 million in 1998. An estimated 26 million people were taking treatment or accessing antiretroviral therapy for HIV as of June 2020.

Globally, about 38 million people were living with HIV in 2019, while 690,000 deaths were reported from AIDS-related illnesses. AIDS-related deaths, too, saw a 60 percent decline from the peak in 2004 and 39 percent drop since 2010.


“World AIDS Day remains as relevant today as it’s always been, reminding people and governments that HIV has not gone away,” the UNAIDS said. “There is still a critical need for increased funding for the AIDS response, to increase awareness of the impact of HIV on people’s lives, to end stigma and discrimination and to improve the quality of life of people living with HIV.”

Annual new HIV infections in India decline

In India, around 23.49 lakh (17.98 lakh–30.98 lakh) people are living with HIV in 2019, with an adult HIV prevalence of 0.22 percent, according to India HIV Estimates 2019 report.  In 2019, over 69 thousand new HIV infections were estimated (nearly 190 new infections every day or eight every hour), which declined by 37 percent from 2010 and by 86 percent from its peak in 1997, the report says.

Of the 23.49 lakh people living with HIV, children accounted for 3.4 percent and women (15+ years) 44 percent. The HIV incidence is estimated at 0.05 per 1,000 uninfected population in 2019, down from 0.54 in 1995.

Nearly 59,000 AIDS-related deaths were estimated in 2019, down by 66 percent over a decade and falling 78 percent from its peak in 2005. AIDS mortality was at 4.43 per 100,000 population in 2019, down from its peak of 25 per lakh population during 2004-05.


“HIV infection in India is mainly caused by engagement in high-risk behaviours—such as unprotected heterosexual behaviour, unprotected homosexual behaviour and unsafe injecting drug-use behaviour,” the government said in a reply to a question the Rajya Sabha on September 20.

According to UNAIDS, the risk of acquiring HIV is 26 times higher among gay men and men who have sex with men; 29 times higher among people who inject drugs; 30 times higher for sex workers and 13 times higher for transgender people.
Chaitanya Mallapur
first published: Dec 1, 2020 12:05 pm

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