More married women in India are getting infected by the HIV virus by their husbands. South Asia has a HIV/AIDS population of 6 million people, and India alone accounts for 5.1 million of this figure.
The AIDS Epidemic Update December 2005 by UNAIDS states, 'A significant proportion of new infections (in India) is occurring in women who are married and who have been infected by husbands who (either currently or in the past) frequented sex workers.'
'HIV prevalence of over one percent has been found in pregnant women in four of the industrialized western and southern states of India (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu) and in the north-eastern states of Manipur and Nagaland,' says the study based on data complied by India's National AIDS Control Organization (NACO)
Released ahead of World AIDS Day Thursday, the study says that although the levels of HIV infection prevalence appear to have stabilized in states such as Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra, 'it is still increasing in several other states'.
'As a result, overall HIV prevalence has continued to rise in the country. State-wide prevalence of HIV among pregnant women is still very low in the poor and densely populated northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.'
It has warned that 'even relatively minor increases in HIV transmission could translate into huge numbers of people becoming infected in those states, which are home to one quarter of India's entire population'.
The total number of AIDS cases in India is estimated to be about 1,11,608 as on July 2005. India has the second highest incidence of HIV/AIDS in the world after South Africa.
According to NACO, sexual transmission is responsible for over 85% of the reported AIDS cases in India. HIV-prevalence rates are highest among sex workers and their clients, injecting drug users and men who have sex with men (many of whom are married).
When surveyed, 70% of commercial sex workers in India reported that their main reason for not using condoms was because their customers objected to it.
Migration, low status of women, injecting drug use and widespread stigma and misconception that AIDS only affects men who have sex with men strengthens and perpetuates existing discrimination, the World Bank report stated.
The multilateral body is among several global bodies assisting India in tackling the burden of the disease through awareness campaigns and providing anti-retroviral treatment.