AIDS Care Watch

Monday, September 24, 2007

Malawi starts distributing ARVs to those in need

By, SABC News, September 23, 2007

Malawi has begun the distribution of anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs to about 100 000 adults and 20 000 children living with HIV. Figures from the National Aids Commission show two million out Malawi's 12 million population are HIV positive.

President Bingu wa Mutharika's secretary for Nutrition and HIV/Aids, Mary Shawa, says that almost 90 000 children across Malawi have HIV. She says most of the children contracted the virus through mother to child transmission.

Shawa says the government has now established 144 delivery and service centres, up from 36 in 2004, to deal with mother to child transmission. Currently 100 000 HIV positive people in Malawi are already on AZT, paid for by the Global Fund initiative against Aids, malaria and TB.

An estimated 14% of Malawi's 12 million people are infected with HIV/Aids, with about 240 people dying of the disease each day. More than one million children have been orphaned by the epidemic.


Partnership is the key to success in tackling HIV and STIs in PNG

By, Scoop World Independent News, September 21, 2007

This week in Port Moresby, a landmark partnership, the PNG-Australia Sexual Health Improvement Program (PASHIP), has been formalised to tackle the spread and treatment of Sexually Transmitted Infections, particularly HIV.

The PNG Government, the Australian Government and local and Australian NGOs have joined together in a 50 million Kina ($20 million AUD) program to take a proactive approach in tackling the scourge of HIV that is estimated to affect up to 2.5% - or 150,000 people in Papua New Guinea.

Caritas Australia, is in charge of rolling out the new partnership in the Southern Highlands, Simbu and the National Capital District of PNG, whilst four other NGOs and health providers will be involved in a total of eight provinces.

Caritas Australia CEO Jack de Groot said "This unique partnership to tackle Sexual Transmitted Infections, particularly HIV in PNG is indicative of the role and responsibilities that church agencies like Caritas Australia has in our neighbouring countries.

"Currently the Catholic health system delivers around 25% of PNGs total health services and this partnership is also recognition of the important role that the Catholic Church and other Churches play in delivering basic services to many in the Pacific. The PASHIP initiative has at its core the building of capacity for local organisations to tackle STI and HIV problems".

"Working at the grassroots level is crucial to effectively tackling STIs in PNG. Our work focuses on education, prevention and treatment and reflects our philosophy of promoting the dignity of people. We are able to carry out this work in a culturally appropriate manner as our partners are part of local communities. This is crucial in challenging the stigma that is still associated with STIs and HIV in many parts of PNG", said Mr de Groot.

"PASHIP is innovative in that it recognises that PNG has many issues it must face. HIV is a crucial one but we must not be neglectful of the many other issues that affect people's health in PNG. The flexibility of this new initiative is based on supporting local organisations to strengthen their abilities to deal with the key health problems facing PNG. In this way we are offering not a band aid but a long term solution built on the skills and capacity of local people: said Mr de Groot.
In launching the partnership Australian High Commissioner to PNG, Mr Chris Moraitis, said by funding PASHIP, the Australian Government recognises PNG is facing serious issues in the area of sexual health. "Many provinces in PNG report alarmingly high death rates due to problems of untreated STIs, and of course, STI infection is strongly linked to HIV infection," he said.

Dr Timothy Pyakalia, Deputy Secretary, National Department of Health. emphasised that PASHIP is a partnership between Australia and PNG, NGOs and government departments. He also emphasised the need to build capacity, which is a key element of this program.

Dr Pyakalia said that "the current arrangement with the Churches - who deliver the bulk of health services in remote and rural areas - was made in the 1980s. Back then HIV wasn't a problem. Then, PNG had a population of 3 million; now it has over 6 million. Then, 250,000 people had malaria, now over 2 million suffer from it. The Churches are being asked to take on more. This program is important in helping to building capacity."


Friday, September 21, 2007

Nigeria: Country Ranks Third in HIV Infection - NACA

By, Patrick Ugeh, This Day (Lagos), September 20, 2007

Nigeria ranks third among most infected countries with the Human Immuno deficiency Virus (HIV), coming after South Africa and India in that order.

This was disclosed yesterday in Abuja, by Ekeoma Uwaoma, Relationship Manager, National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA), at a one-day capacity workshop organised by the Federal Ministry of Energy in collaboration with NACA.

Uwaoma, in a paper titled, Basic Facts on HIV/Aids, alerted the nation that there were increasing cases of Nigerian ladies who, in their desperate desire to get back at the society, especially because of the stigmatisation which is still very prevalent, dress up provocatively and seek for lift from men, only to end up raping them and gleefully taunt their victims: "Welcome to the club, you are now HIV-positive."

She also said the population of Nigerians living with the disease is more than the entire population of Liberia. Giving a hint of the near-crisis situation of the pandemic in the country, she narrated an incident in which a patient with the disease who was referred for admission could not be taken by two hospitals in the Federal Capital Territory, Wuse and Asokoro general hospitals, on account of shortage of beds.

She said the patient eventually ended up at the National Hospital.

Noting that the prevalence of HIV in Nigeria wasadversely affecting the attainment of the MillenniumDevelopment Goals, Uwaoma called on the government to issue a circular to make budgetary provisions for the Energy and parastatals under it to take care of HIV-ralated issues, lamenting that enough attention had not been given to the handling of the disease. She cited lack of transparency on the part of government officials as a major stumbling block.In his address, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Energy (Power), Engr. Sadiq Mahmood, who was represented by Engr. Mohammed Amate, Director of Planning, Research and Statistics, announced that theministry would soon set up HIV centres in the various departments and urged the participants to spread the knowledge they would acquire from the workshop to their colleagues.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Kenya: Muslim opposition to condoms limits distribution

By, IRIN PlusNews, September 17, 2007

The strong anti-condom stance of religious leaders in northern Kenya means few people there are using them and traders are refusing to stock them, which AIDS activists warn is jeopardising the fight against the pandemic.

"I will never sell condoms in my shop; it is like promoting adultery and operating a brothel," Sharrif Mohamed, who owns a shop in Isiolo, Eastern Province, told IRIN/PlusNews.

Most traders in the mainly Muslim northeastern part of the country have refused to stock condoms, which are usually only available at government health centres.

Zamzam, a single mother of three in Garissa, a town North Eastern Province, dismissed condoms as "a thing for the prostitutes", saying, "I use my brain and intelligence when I want to sleep with a man, and can tell who is sick [with HIV/AIDS]; I am not a prostitute to use it." This level of ignorance is common across the region, where literacy levels are the lowest in the country.

"The HIV/AIDS pandemic is a curse and punishment because people have engaged in immoral acts and offended Allah [God]," Maalim Hussein Mohamud, a teacher at a 'madrassa', or Islamic school, in Mandera, near the Somali border, told IRIN/PlusNews. "They have to repent, observe religious teaching and not use condoms."

Mohamud said the only way to prevent the viral infection was to observe religious teachings, abstain from 'illegal' sexual acts and avoid the use of condoms.

"Our position is very clear: we shall never support the use of condoms; Muslims must shun acts that will endanger their lives. To be safe [from HIV], youths must pray five times daily, fast, and refrain from looking at women; extramarital affairs must be avoided and women must dress decently," he insisted.

Noor sheikh, who works at the government's HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infection control programme in North Eastern Province, said stiff opposition to the use of condoms was proving to be a hindrance to HIV prevention. "Our region has the lowest use of condoms in the country," he said. "Of course it is a factor responsible for many cases of infections."

Some activists have complained that the government has not done enough to educate the local population about condom use, particularly in rural areas, and it was also often very difficult to obtain condoms.

"Many youths are informed about the use of condoms, but have said they are not available in remote parts of the region," said Margaret Leshore, of the Samburu Women's Empowerment Programme, a non-governmental organisation advocating women's rights.

The condom is one of the main HIV prevention strategies employed by the government, and free condoms are available at most health centres around the country.

Although northern Kenya has some of the country's lowest prevalence rates, concerns have been raised about low awareness of the pandemic and the region's continued resistance to condom use.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Pregnancy May Help Cut Risks For HIV Infected Women

By, Medical News Today, September 15, 2007

Women with HIV infection who become pregnant have a lower risk of progression to AIDS and death, researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center report.

Their findings, posted last week on the online edition of the Journal of Infectious Diseases, suggest that "the complex set of immunologic changes" that occur during pregnancy may be interacting in a beneficial way with combination drug therapy.

Some previous studies in the developing world had reported higher levels of complications and deaths from AIDS among pregnant women. But those studies were conducted before the advent of highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART), drug "cocktails" that over the past decade have dramatically reduced death and complication rates among people infected with the AIDS-causing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The Vanderbilt study included 759 women treated between 1997 and 2004 at Nashville's Comprehensive Care Center, one of the nation's largest outpatient AIDS treatment programs. More than 500 of these women received HAART, including 119 of the 139 women who had at least one pregnancy during the study period.

After using statistical modeling methods to adjust for differences between women, including their age, health and response to therapy, the researchers found that "pregnant women did better," said Timothy Sterling, M.D., the study's senior author and associate professor of Medicine.

In addition, women who became pregnant more than once during the study tended to have a lower risk of disease progression than did women who became pregnant only once. That also supports the conclusion that something about pregnancy is beneficial, he added.

However, more study is needed, Sterling cautioned. Pregnant women were healthier than the women who did not become pregnant, and they may have been more likely to adhere to their therapy out of concern for the fetus.

They also received "intensive care" frequent visits with their physician, case managers and nutritional counselors. "Perhaps efforts should be made to do that for everyone, pregnant or not, female or male," he said.

The study was begun four years ago by first-year medical student Mercy Udoji as part of what is now Vanderbilt Medical School's Emphasis Program, which provides a variety of research and scholarly activities for students during their pre-clinical years.

Jennifer Tai, M.D., made major contributions to the study while participating in the Vanderbilt Medical Scholars Program.

Tai, currently a resident in pediatrics at the University of Colorado, and Udoji, a resident in anesthesiology at Duke, are listed as first authors on the paper and previously have presented data from the study at scientific conferences.

"They both did a fantastic job," said Sterling, who directs the Epidemiology/Outcomes Unit of the Vanderbilt-Meharry Center for AIDS Research. "Neither one had formal training in statistical methods or analysis, but they learned the necessary skills through the conduct of this study."

"Seeing this project from start to finish has made me recognize the rising importance of clinical research and its role in patient care," said Udoji, a Nashville native and former Tennessee State University track star. "I look forward to participating in more projects in the future."

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health. Co-authors were Gema Barkanic, Daniel Byrne, Peter Rebeiro, Beverly Byram, Asghar Kheshti, Justine Carter, Cornelia Graves, M.D., and Stephen Raffanti, M.D.


KENYA: What about the female condom?

By, IRIN PlusNews, September 14, 2007

Unpopular and misunderstood, the female condom has failed to take off in Kenya, depriving women of one of the few means over which they have control of protecting themselves against HIV infection in male-dominated societies.

"The introduction of the female condom in Kenya has failed to slow down HIV in women," Dr Enoch Kibunguchy, assistant minister for health, told IRIN/PlusNews. An estimated 740,000 women are infected with the virus, and carry the burden of HIV in the country.

"The female condom was introduced in Kenya in a wrong manner. Manufacturers dumped the condoms in the country and did not bother to provide accurate information on its use," he said. "A belated attempt by the government raise its profile came in too late, as attitude against it had already become ingrained."

Over 200,000 of the condoms were supplied in 2007 but consumption was a paltry 10,000, while an estimated 12 million male condoms were used every month, according the director of the National Aids Control Council, Prof Alloys Orago.

"While consumption of the male condom has been rising because of its low cost, the cost of the female condom is outrageously high," he added. The female condom retails for as much as US$3, which is beyond the means of most women.

Cultural barriers also often made it difficult for women to negotiate safer sex. "Although the [female] condoms are dispensed at government facilities for free, few women go for them," said Kibunguchy.

"Women give the condom a wide berth because it is cumbersome to wear, while others find it embarrassing. Even among the highly educated and professional class of women, the female condom is not a popular contraceptive." However, he said the government would keep promoting the use of the female condom.

Reversing the unpopularity of the female condom would require "a change in attitude", Kibunguchy commented. "Even economic empowerment, although critical, may not raise female condom uptake if supply and information are not well matched."

AIDS activists agreed, with many blaming the poor uptake of the female condom on insufficient effort by government to popularise it.

Too early to give up

Allan Ragi, executive director of the Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium (KANCO), an umbrella organisation for HIV/AIDS civil society, called on the government to refocus its energies on making the female condom more widely available.

"For poor, rural women, the female condom is a lifeline; if a woman's husband shows up drunk at midnight, wanting to have sex, if she's already ... [got] the condom then she ... [can be] protected," he said. "But accessibility has been a problem since the beginning - where is this woman supposed to get the condom?"

Better marketing and more information were necessary to ensure that all women in Kenya had the condom as an option for protection against sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, Ragi said. "Family planning and antenatal clinics would be a good starting point to empower women with the knowledge and the condoms."


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Africa: 'Marriage Not a Barrier to Catching HIV/Aids'

By, Kakaire A. Kirunda, The Monitor (Kampala), September 10, 2007

While marriage has highly been thought to greatly reduce the risk of catching HIV/Aids, it is increasingly emerging that this notion is proving otherwise.

This emerged at the just concluded 1st regional forum on best health care practices. The forum, was organised by the East Central and Southern Africa Health Community in Arusha, Tanzania.

Debate ensured amongst delegates following a presentation by Dr Isaiah Tanui of the Global Aids Programme of the Centres for Disease Control in Kenya in which he cited Uganda as one of the countries in the region with a high incidence of HIV in married couples.

Dr Tanui's argument was based on Uganda's recent national HIV/Aids survey that appeared to indicate that over the last decade marriage did not protect couples from catching the deadly disease. The survey indicated that married couples accounted for the largest proportion of new HIV infections in the country. "Sixty five per cent occurred among married people, 26 percent among divorced or widowed women, and nine percent among never married," said Dr Tanui.

But last December, the press quoted the Director General of the Uganda Aids Commission as saying that research conducted from 1996 through 2005, showed that 42 per cent of the 130,000 new HIV infections in the country occurred within marriage. It emerged from the discussions that ensured after Dr Tanui's presentation that the problem was not only for Uganda but an emerging one for the entire region in all the 10 active East, Central and South African -Health Community countries.

Some delegates called for compulsory HIV testing for all couples intending to marry.

Another group led by a Seychelles delegation called for an aggressive voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) for intending marriage partners. The called on religious organisations to join the campaign.

However, Dr Peter Toroitich of Kenya's National Aids Control Project cautioned the forum that compulsory testing would raise human rights questions. "What we need is to revisit our VCT policies and advise pre-tests every time there are new relationships," he added.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Kenya: Risk HIV or remain childless, the dilemma of discordance

By, IRIN PlusNews, September 6, 2007

HIV-discordant couples in their child-bearing years face a life-changing decision: to remain childless or risk the HIV-negative partner contracting the virus for the sake of having a child.

"People get married to procreate, so when couples find out that they are discordant, the biggest challenge is what to do about having children," said Churchill Kamau*, of Discordant Couples of Kenya (DISCOK), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that supports people in such relationships.

"We are finding, at least in our organisation, that the couples are willing to risk infection for the sake of a child." Kamau is HIV-negative, but discovered his wife was HIV-positive when she fell pregnant in 2005.

Their child is HIV-negative, thanks to a prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programme provided by the antenatal clinic, but he is not certain they would try to have another baby. "At the moment I would say no, but I can't rule it out in the long term," Kamau told IRIN/PlusNews.

Alternative reproduction options that could protect the HIV-negative partner exist: sperm washing when the man is HIV-positive, or artificial insemination when the woman is HIV-positive, but most Kenyan couples are too poor to afford these methods, and instead opt for unprotected intercourse.

According to the Carol Ngare, manager of Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) for the National AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections Control Programme (NASCOP), about 13 percent of married couples who attended VCT services in Kenya were HIV discordant.

"Because of easily accessible PMTCT, most couples now know that even if one passes the virus on to the other, they are unlikely to pass it on to their child," Kamau said. "They are also aware of free ARVs [antiretroviral drugs], so they are more confident of being around to see the child grow up, even if they do contract the virus."

He stressed the need for couples to be aware of their options, and said the government should work with groups like DISCOK to reach discordant couples, who were often secretive because they were afraid of being stigmatised.

"For instance, I have never told my family that my wife is HIV-positive - they would pressure me to leave her," Kamau said. "For many couples, it is the same; they do not access information because they are afraid of disclosing their discordance to the wider community."

According to NASCOP, couples are encouraged to go for testing together, so they can know each other's status and decide how to proceed if they discover they are discordant.

"The counselling messages aim at giving them the disadvantages and benefits of getting pregnant, and ensuring that whatever choice they make is through informed consent," Carol Ngare, voluntary counselling and testing manager at NASCOP, told IRIN/PlusNews. "Whatever choice they make, they will be supported in counselling and treatment, where required, through PMTCT."

However, the proportion of people who visit these centres with their partners is below 10 percent, and DISCOK's Kamau said the government should run a campaign specifically encouraging couples to do so.


South Africa: Microbicide trials - what's in it for participants?

By, IRIN PlusNews, September 5, 2007

Why would a woman volunteer to use a product that may or may not protect her from HIV infection, undergo a lengthy screening process and then commit to regular clinic visits for up to two years?

South African women make up a significant number of the thousands in the African continent who have volunteered to participate in clinical trials for microbicides - a range of female-controlled products in the form of gels, creams, sponges and vaginal rings, which scientists are hopeful will prove effective at protecting women from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

A number of microbicide products have proven safe and effective in laboratory tests, but before being approved for use by the general public they must be tested on women in areas of the world where HIV prevalence is high enough to yield incontrovertible results.

The challenge for scientists is to design trials that have sufficiently attractive benefits to recruit and retain participants, without offering what ethics committees would deem incentives or inducements.


South Africa's Medicines Control Council mandates that trial participants receive a R150 (US$21) "reimbursement" to cover transport costs each time they visit a trial site. The money is usually more than enough, and undoubtedly provides at least some motivation for unemployed women surviving on small incomes.

"I heard from a friend about the free check-ups and the money," admitted Bathabile*, 34, from Soshanguve, a township north of Pretoria. She had hoped to participate in a trial of a microbicide gel, Carraguard, run by the Population Council, an international nonprofit organisation, but was excluded when she tested HIV positive.

Zanele, 27, also from Soshanguve, qualified to participate in the Carraguard trial and stayed with it for two years until it ended in March 2007. She spent her leftover reimbursement money on clothing, but said it was not her main reason for taking part.

"I wanted to know my [HIV] status and get STI treatment and pap smears," she told IRIN/PlusNews. "And I wanted to help other women, because I know women who've been affected by HIV."

According to Dr Claire Von Mollendorf, of the Reproductive Health and HIV Research Unit (RHRU) at the University of Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, who has been involved in several microbicide trials, many women volunteered for altruistic reasons: "They want to help because they've all had family members that have died from HIV."

Most of the participants IRIN/PlusNews interviewed at Setshaba Research Centre in Soshanguve, one of three sites in South Africa where the Carraguard trial was conducted, cited the health benefits as their main reason for taking part: regular HIV tests, treatment for STIs, annual Pap smears, free condoms, and counselling on how to reduce their HIV risk.

"I miss the health services we got here," said Zanele. "Last week I went for an HIV test at the [public] clinic, and the nurses were rude and the queue was long, unlike here, where I would just come in and be attended to just like that."

Rivonia, 22, qualified for the trial and used the gel for three months before testing positive and having to drop out of the trial. Despite the initial shock of discovering her status, she had no regrets about her involvement. "I wouldn't have tested if it hadn't been for the trial," she told IRIN/PlusNews. "Even now, I wouldn't have known that I'm HIV positive."

I wouldn't have tested if it hadn't been for the trial. Even now, I wouldn't have known that I'm HIV positive.
Rivonia and Bathabile were among about 30 women - all of whom tested positive during the initial screening or became positive over the course of the three-year trial - who then joined a support group started by the trial staff. The group met weekly and attended cookery classes by a nutritionist, received health advice and referrals from a doctor, and support from each other.

Staying the course

Scientists need at least 80 percent of microbicide trial participants to use the product for periods of up to two years to obtain reliable results. In the case of Carraguard, which comes in the form of a gel, many women said they enjoyed using it because the gel acted as a lubricant, increasing sexual pleasure for themselves and their partners. Similarly positive feedback has come from other microbicide trials.

Jonathan Stadler, a social scientist with the RHRU who has interviewed women about their experiences during microbicide trials, said many reported liking the fact they could be using a product that might protect them against HIV and STIs.

"In a world of HIV and AIDS, where all we've managed to give people so far is the condom, and suddenly you get something which is so much nicer to use, the fact that this might actually be effective is a very attractive idea for most people," he said.

There is evidence that women who do not tell their male partners about their trial participation are more likely to drop out. Dr Khatija Ahmed of the University of Limpopo, principal investigator of the trial, said only about half the 2,400 women in the Carraguard trial in Soshanguve told their partners, and a small percentage of those dropped out when the partners discovered they were using the gel.

"It helps if the partner is involved, especially in terms of adherence, and also for the treatment of STIs, because we did offer treatment to partners as well," said Ahmed. "But this is a woman-based clinical trial. We advise participants to tell their partners, but it's really their choice, because different people have different relationships."

Zanele was six months into the trial before she told her boyfriend. "I was nervous because he takes long to understand these issues," she said. "Finally, he heard from other people that there's this gel and women are getting paid to use it, and then I told him. In the beginning, he didn't want to use it but after he heard what its purpose was, he said, 'let's use it'."

Some of the women in the Carraguard trial also attracted unflattering neighbourhood gossip, much of it related to their reimbursements. "People would say, 'Why should we get paid? It means the gel will infect us'," said Rivonia.

Von Mollendorf commented that "study fatigue" tended to set in after the first few months of a microbicide trial. "It becomes tedious for the women, and that's why, in the middle of your study, you try to have retention parties or events to encourage them to stay in the trial. You give them more information and updates from other microbicide trials."


The Carraguard trial, the results of which are expected by the end of the year, is the first microbicide trial to complete the final human effectiveness phase of testing. "The entire microbicide world and all the communities where the research was conducted are waiting for those results," said Ahmed.

Participants and the wider community will be informed about the results of the trial, and Ahmed is hopeful that if the product proves effective they wwill also be given priority in having access to it.

"The Population Council is already negotiating with various pharmaceutical companies with regard to manufacturing the product at a cost that is affordable to the people who need it," she said.

For her part, Zanele is looking forward to other studies coming to Soshanguve. "I would like to be in another trial," she said.


Friday, September 07, 2007

China's blood still unsafe, needs help

By, Ben Blanchard, Reuters, September 6, 2007

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's blood supply is still not being properly monitored for HIV/AIDS a decade after a blood-selling scandal, and it needs international help to tackle the problem, a report said on Thursday.

The government has tried to clean up the sector after hundreds of thousands of farmers in central Henan province were infected in the 1990s through schemes in which people sold blood to unsanitary, often state-run health clinics.

Then-Health Minister Gao Qiang admitted in a speech earlier this summer that China's blood donation system was far from perfect and safety worries remained.

"The demand for blood and blood products is growing in China, and supply is short," said Sara Davis, co-author of the report and director of Asia Catalyst, a New York-based group that helps non-government organisations in Asia.

"This creates an economic incentive for hospitals to rely on illegal, untested blood donations, and that fuels the spread of AIDS," she added in a separate statement.

In June, the food and drug regulator said it had discovered fake plasma being used in at least 18 hospitals in northeastern China.

"China is not alone," Davis said. "Most developed countries have dealt with similar AIDS blood scandals, and they should step forward to offer assistance to China."

An estimated 650,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in China, and health experts say the disease is moving into the general population with most new infections now spread sexually, although drug-users follow closely behind.

While other countries such as Japan and France, which have also had problems with infections through blood transfusions, have taken effective measures to ensure no repeat of past scandals, that is not the case in China.

"Today, China's blood supply remains dangerously unsafe. Around the country, patients who check into hospitals for routine surgery may check out with HIV/AIDS as a result of hospital blood transfusions," the report said.

"In China, where the AIDS blood transmission outbreak in some provinces dwarfs those of Japan and France ..., health officials who acted negligently or criminally while directly profitting from the causes of the blood scandal have rarely been held personally accountable," it added.

The government should set up a compensation fund for those infected by transfusions and order courts to accept all lawsuits from these victims, the report recommended.

"Haemophiliacs and other patients infected with HIV through blood and blood products provided by hospitals have suffered physical and emotional pain and suffering caused directly by those hospitals and clinics," it said.

"They are entitled to reparations for these violations of their rights."


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Increasing Number of AIDS Cases Despite Decrease in India's National Estimate

By, Kaiser Network, September 5, 2007

Although India recently reduced its HIV/AIDS caseload estimate, the number of AIDS cases in New Delhi has been increasing since 2000, according to a recent Ministry of Health and Family Welfare report, the IANS/Economic Times reports (IANS/Economic Times, 9/2). Indian Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss in July announced that the number of people estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS in the country is about 2.47 million, or half of previous estimates, according to United Nations-backed government estimates. The new estimate decreases India's HIV prevalence from 0.9% to 0.36%, Ramadoss said. The new estimate was calculated with the assistance of international agencies, such as the United Nations and USAID. The earlier estimate was based on blood samples taken from pregnant women and high-risk groups, such as injection drug users and commercial sex workers. The new estimate was based on a population-based survey that took blood samples from 102,000 people to determine HIV prevalence among the general population (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/6).

According to the report, the number of recorded AIDS cases in New Delhi has increased from 498 in 2000 to 5,082 in 2007. In addition, the city recorded 743 new AIDS cases and 97 AIDS-related deaths between January and June, the report said. According to a health ministry official, there are two potential reasons for the increasing number of AIDS cases in New Delhi: the city's mobile population and its antiretroviral treatment program. In addition, the large number of vulnerable groups in the city is contributing to the situation, according to Mahesh Ganesan, a doctor who works with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "It's a myth that a large population in Delhi is aware of AIDS," Ganesan said, adding, "Industrial workers and youth remain the main vulnerable sections. Higher prevalence of premarital sex, sometimes in adolescence, also contributes to the numbers."

The national ministry of health recently launched the third phase of India's National AIDS Control Program, which aims to stop and reverse the spread of HIV during the next five years. In reaction to the NACP launch, New Delhi's AIDS Control Society has designed a program to increase HIV/AIDS awareness, according to a state health ministry official. The official added that railway stations, public transportation terminals and shopping areas will be the focus of the program, which involves radio and print advertisements, posters, banners and panel meetings (IANS/Economic Times, 9/2).