New HIV infections plunging in Asia: UN

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New HIV infections are falling in Asia, with India, the country with the biggest population of infected people in the region, reporting a 56 percent plunge from the epidemic's peak, the United Nations said Monday.

"In South and South-east Asia, the estimated 270,000 new HIV infections in 2010 was 40 percent less than at the epidemic's peak in 1996," said UNAIDS, the agency charged with an international campaign against the disease.

"In India, the country with the largest number of people living with HIV in the region, new HIV infections fell by 56 percent," it added.

However in East Asia, the number of new cases rose from 74,000 in 2001 to 88,000 in 2010.

Overall HIV prevalence is "substantially lower" in Asia than in other parts of the world.

In East Asia, it is at 0.1 percent -- the lowest rate in the world, while in South and South-east Asia, prevalence rate was at 0.3 percent, half of that in North America.

However, due to the sheer size of its population, the absolute number of HIV-infected people in Asia is the world's second largest.

In East Asia, they number 790,000 while in South and South-east Asia, they reached 4.0 million in 2010.

UNAIDS noted that prevalence is mostly higher among key populations at higher risk of infection, such as sex workers, drug users and homosexuals.

However, "over time, the virus is spreading to other populations," it noted.

Trends of infections were also very varied in the region. In several Asian countries, national epidemics were concentrated in relatively few provinces.

In China, for instance, five provinces account for 53 percent of infected people in the sprawling country.

In Indonesia, a disproportionately large part of its careload is found in its Papua and west Papua provinces.

© 2011 AFP

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