BENGALURU: More than half the population vulnerable to HIV do not know if they have the virus that causes the dreaded AIDS. Stigma, discrimination and restrictive laws remain barriers to the prevention and treatment of the disease, said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO South-East Asia, on Friday.
In a message ahead of World AIDS Day, which falls on Monday, Poonam said, “Massive gains have been achieved in our fight against HIV. We now have more than 10 million people on HIV treatment globally. Efforts continue and are being accelerated to achieve the ambitious target of ending AIDS by 2030.”
“In the WHO South-East Asia region, as of 2013, we had around 3.4 million people living with HIV; 1.1 million of them are currently on treatment. In 2004, 83,000 people were on treatment. We have managed to increase the coverage 12-fold in a decade,” she said.
More than 50 per cent of the people estimated to be living with HIV are not taking treatment or aren’t aware of their status, she added.
The HIV epidemic in South Asia region is concentrated among populations most vulnerable to HIV: men who have sex with men, transgenders, people who inject drugs, sex workers, people in prisons and other closed settings.
The health sector has scaled up its response to the vulnerable groups but more needs to be done. Poonam said this year, WHO has updated its guidelines on the use of antiretroviral drugs for treating and preventing HIV infection and prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care. These call for “governments to enforce protective laws to eliminate discrimination and violence faced by key populations”.