The number of
people living with HIV in India could be lower than
government estimates, research published in a medical
journal said, but the United Nations warned against
drawing "hasty conclusions."
In a district in
the southern state of Andhra Pradesh--the state has
the highest HIV rate in India--scientists who
studied the prevalence of the virus that causes AIDS
found it was less than half the government's figure.
112,600 HIV cases in the district of Guntur, Lalit Dandona,
of the Administrative Staff College of India, in
Hyderabad estimates the number is about 45,900.
method in India leads to a gross overestimation of the
HIV burden in this district," Dandona said in a report
published in the journal BMC Medicine.
major implications of these findings for the overall
HIV estimate for India need to be examined," he said.
Nations estimates India has the largest number of people
living with HIV/AIDS at 5.7 million. Its anti-AIDS agency
warned against extrapolating conclusions from the
Guntur study about the spread of HIV in the country.
the HIV caseload through surveillance in selected
clinics and hospitals around the country.
The sample size
means the surveillance data from one particular district
might not necessarily give an accurate picture of number of
cases in the district itself. But in aggregate, UNAIDS
believes the data from the whole country gives a fair
"Even if we could
find there is an overestimation in Guntur, it is not
acceptable to conclude this applies to the whole of India,"
UNAIDS India chief Denis Broun told Reuters.
"One should not
jump to conclusions too hastily," Broun said.
Broun said the Hyderabad staff college was highly respected
by UNAIDS and other agencies.
has the highest incident of HIV-positive people in India
with over 2% of the population, or nearly 1.5 million
people, living with the virus.
of the report, published in the BMC Medicine journal,
tested blood samples from more than 12,000 men and
women ages 15-49 from both urban and rural areas
in Guntur who were representative for the study.
prevalence rate they found was 1.72%, which rose to
1.79%, or 45,900 cases, after they adjusted the number
for high risk groups.
based on data collected from antenatal clinics, sexual
health clinics, high-risk groups, and referrals of
HIV-positive and suspected cases to public hospitals
put the number of cases at 112,600.
public hospitals have disproportionately high rates of HIV
because they are used more by patients from lower
socioeconomic groups who have a higher prevalence of
said population survey results often gave different
results from other methods such as surveillance site data,
but added that the global body would review its
current estimates if needed.
In the past,
UNAIDS figures for HIV-positive people in East Africa,
including Kenya, were found to be overestimated. (Reuters)