Dr R S Paranjape
As World AIDS Day (December 1) draws near, Dr R S Paranjape, Director of National AIDS Research Institute, during an interaction with The Indian Express at an Idea Exchange programme, speaks on a range of issues — from the hunt for an HIV vaccine and containing fresh infections to new collaborations for better drugs.
Anuradha Mascarenhas: What is the reason for the decline in new HIV infections?
India has shown decline in new infections by more than 50 per cent in the last 10 years. The prominent reason is a largely successful targetted intervention programme by the Centre and a sustained information, education and communication campaign. The focus on promoting use of condom and providing interventions in high-risk groups like commercial sex workers and men having sex with men is also a reason that has led to the decline. The prevalence of HIV infection has been declining every year thanks to these efforts. A majority of the people are on anti-retroviral therapy (ART); they will continue to remain infected but will arrest the transmission of the virus.
Manoj More: How big was the epidemic ten years ago and who played a major role in bringing about this decline?
Ten years ago, 2.7 million people were estimated to have been infected with HIV. Over the years, the decline in new infections has been effected due to efforts made by the National AIDS Control Organisation. There is no vaccine or microbicide but sustained use of condoms and behavioural changes were among the key factors that led to the decline. NGOs also played a huge role.
Anuradha Mascarenhas: International agencies had funded the AIDS control programme. Now, with the decline in cases, have the funds dried up?
You will be surprised to know that in the 12th Five Year Plan, the Department of AIDS Control has provided tremendous funding for the programme. A majority of the HIV prevention programmes were funded by international agencies, but the government has now allocated a huge amount.
Geeta Nair: Has the change in funding pattern led to drug stock-outs?
India is a big country. With so many ART centres and different channels to procure funds, it is likely that there will be procedural issues. We may have an occasional stock-out but reaching out to 6.5 lakh to provide free ART is a huge task. Of course, stock-outs should not happen and a week ago we did fear one at our ART centre