Treatment for AIDS in South Asia is limited at present, with weak health systems contributing to low access to and use of services. The challenges of a comprehensive scaling up of antiretroviral treatment are substantial, underscoring the crucial role of effective prevention today.
Author: Mariam Claeson, Program Coordinator for HIV and AIDS
The report, HIV and AIDS in South Asia, presents a unique perspective on HIV and AIDS as regional development issues. Although HIV prevalence in South Asia is comparatively low, the region faces a number of challenges including the risk of escalation of concentrated epidemics, the economic welfare costs, and the fiscal costs of scaling up treatment for AIDS.
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Part 1: Epidemiology of HIV and Prevention Strategies
The World Bank estimates that 2 million to 3.5 million people in South Asia may be living with HIV with India constituting the majority of this population. As in other regions, the nexus of unprotected sex and injecting drug use among vulnerable groups are major risk factors for driving the spread of HIV.
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Part 2: The Economic and Development Impacts of HIV and AIDS
While the impact of HIV and AIDS on economic growth in South Asia has been small, especially coupled with the high economic growth rates realized in most of the region, there are significant welfare costs and economic implications for those affected including increased unemployment and reduced incomes. HIV and AIDS also carry health and demographic impacts especially with regards to access to treatment and orphanhood. HIV-related stigma and discrimination also significantly and adversely impacts those who are living with HIV and vulnerable groups at risk.
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Part 3: The Burden of HIV and AIDS on the Health Sector
Although per capita incomes are higher in South Asia than in many African countries, the two continents are on par with respect to total health expenditure per capita. If HIV infections are distributed across the range of South Asian living standards, then only 30 percent of the cases would be above the more generous poverty line of US$2.15. And the poorest 10 percent of these would be pushed down into poverty by AIDS treatment expenditures.
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