13 October 2009The head of the United Nations agency tasked with fighting the spread of HIV and AIDS has wrapped up his first official trip to India, praising the pioneering work of a Government-run clinic in Bangalore, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said today. The head of the United Nations agency tasked with fighting the spread of HIV and AIDS has wrapped up his first official trip to India, praising the pioneering work of a Government-run clinic in Bangalore, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said today.The HIV treatment centre at Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospitals, the largest and oldest centre in the southern state of Karnataka, has the highest rate of combining HIV and tuberculosis treatment in India.UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé applauded Karnataka authorities yesterday for leading the integration of HIV/TB services at the same facility and for making access to second-line HIV treatment available to patients in need. “This clinic is a model, showing that access to first- and second-line [antiretroviral treatment] ART drugs made in India are being scaled-up for Indians in need of treatment,” said Mr. Sidibé, noting that it represented an example of what could be possible in the future for Africa.In addition, the treatment centre is one of the few sites able to evaluate both when first-line treatment is failing, and provide patients with access to second line treatment.Prices of ART have dropped significantly in recent years, with first-line regimen prices falling up to 40 per cent between 2006 and 2008. But the cocktail of drugs used in second-line therapies, which require a more complex temperature-controlled logistical process, remain expensive.There are an estimated 2.4 million people living with HIV in India, the highest in any country in Asia, with men accounting for over 60 per cent of the infected population and a high prevalence of infection in the 15-49 age group. As in most of Asia, the epidemic is concentrated among key populations at higher risk of HIV, such as sex workers, drug injectors and homosexuals. Mr. Sidibé’s week-long visit to India also included events and meetings in New Delhi and Mumbai.