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India Can Become A Role Model In Combating HIV Infections

India's success in reducing new HIV infections in the southern states through awareness and condom-use campaigns could serve as a roadmap for other countries, says an Indo-Canadian expert.//

'There have been many predictions, mostly based on guesswork, that India's AIDS problem will explode - as the disease had done in southern Africa - but we now have direct evidence of something positive,' said Prabhat Jha, director of University of Toronto's department of public health sciences.

Jha has co-authored the book 'HIV Study in Young Adults in India', which appears Thursday in the online issue of the Lancet. The Canadian government, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Commission on Macroeconomics and Health have funded the study.

The study, done with Rajesh Kumar of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, has revealed that HIV among young women (15 and 24 age) appears to be declining in the hot spots - Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka.

The four states are estimated to account for 75 percent of the 5.1 million HIV/AIDS cases in India, which is next highest after South Africa.

'The good news is that HIV in young adults appears to be declining in the south - most likely or perhaps only due to males using sex workers less or using condoms more often,' Jha told IANS.

'Indian experiences can serve as a roadmap on how to reduce HIV worldwide. Modest public health effort has turned around what was a worsening HIV epidemic. Globally this lesson could serve countries like China and Vietnam. In fact a large part of the world can be served to avoid the catastrophe seen in Africa,' he said.

From a prevalence rate of 1.7 percent in 2000, it has declined to 1.1 percent in 2004, said Jha.

Overall, the HIV prevalence rate in India is 1.6 percent of the population, with a lower estimated prevalence of 0.3 percent in most othe
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