New Delhi: India has lowered on the scale of HIV infections by over 50 percent between 2001 and 2009 in the world, according to a new report released on Friday by UNAIDS.

"In India, the rate of new HIV infections fell by more than 50 per cent and in South Africa by more than 35 per cent; both countries have the largest number of people living with HIV on their continents," according to 'AIDS at 30: Nations at the Crossroads' study.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) report said the global rate of new HIV infections declined by nearly 25 per cent between 2001 and 2009.

As the world marks 30 years of AIDS, UNAIDS estimates about 34 million people are living with HIV and nearly 30 million people have died of AIDS-related causes since the first case of AIDS was reported on June 5, 1981.

It said about 6.6 million people were receiving antiretroviral therapy in low and middle-income countries at the end of 2010, a nearly 22-fold increase since 2001.

A record 1.4 million people started life-saving treatment in 2010 -- more than any year before. According to the report, at least 4,20,000 children were receiving antiretroviral
therapy at the end of 2010, a more than 50 per cent increase since 2008.

"Access to treatment will transform the AIDS response in the next decade. We must invest in accelerating access and finding new treatment options," said Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS
Executive Director.

The report found that in the third decade of the epidemic, people were starting to adopt safer sexual behaviours, reflecting the impact of HIV prevention and awareness efforts. However, there are still important gaps.

Young men are more likely to be informed about HIV prevention than young women. Recent demographic health surveys found that an estimated 74 per cent of young men know that
condoms are effective in preventing HIV infection, compared to just 49 per cent of young women.

In recent years, there has been significant progress in preventing new HIV infections among children as increasing numbers of pregnant women living with HIV have gained access to antiretroviral prophylaxis during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding. The number of children newly infected with HIV in 2009 was 26 per cent lower than in 2001.

About 115 low and middle-income countries are providing optimal treatment regimens for pregnant women living with HIV as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The report, however, said despite expanded access to antiretroviral therapy, a major treatment gap remains.

At the end of 2010, nine million people who were eligible for treatment did not have access. Treatment access for children is lower than for adults.
While the rate of new HIV infections has declined globally, the total number of HIV infections remains high, at about 7000 per day. The global reduction in the rate of new
HIV infections hides regional variations.

According to the report, above-average declines in new HIV infections were recorded in sub-Saharan Africa and in South-East Asia, while Latin America and the Caribbean experienced more modest reductions of less than 25 per cent.

There has been an increase in rate of new HIV infections in Eastern Europe and in the Middle East and North Africa.

According to the report, gender inequalities remain a major barrier to effective HIV responses. HIV is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age, and more than a quarter (26 per cent) of all new global HIV infections are among young women aged 15-24.

Agencies