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Increase in awareness level of general public and targeted intervention in the highest-risk-of-infection category have brought down the estimated number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Nepal to 55,626, according to the National Center for Aids and STD Control (NCASC) under the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP).

NCASC, which calculates the number by including the number of actually infected people and estimated projection of those living with infection but untested, claimed that decrease in new infection of HIV/AIDS this year also means that the number of infected people who have not been tested must also have gone down.

NCASC has started to use Estimation and Projection Package (EPP) software for projection of estimated population living with HIV/AIDS since 2009, which provides greater accuracy in projection. NCASC says that World Health Organization, UNAIDS and other global partners are also involved in the estimation process.

"Refined data comes with the new and advanced software," Program Coordinator of NCASC Rajan Bhattarai said. He, however, conceded that NCASC still does not have the tools to ensure that a single person is not registered as infected at two or more places.

NCASC, which is preparing to make the data public, estimates that only 55,626 people infected with the virus are currently living across the country, with 4,716 of those under 15 years in age, 47,645 between 15-49 years and the rest are 50 years old or above. The estimated number was around 70,000 for nearly a decade till two years ago. Last year, NCASC put the estimated number at just over 64,000.

"We have been successful in reducing the rate of new infection by around 30 percent in the last 10 years, which is significantly better than the global average of 20 percent," Director of NCASC Dr Ramesh Kharel stated.

He claimed that HIV prevention campaign of the government is producing significant results. "AIDS epidemic has been halted in Nepal. The programs targeted in HIV sectors have helped us achieve such success," he added.

The prevalence rate of infection in the sexually active population of 15-49 years, that was 0.40 percent in 2004-2005, has also dropped to 0.33 percent this year, according to NCASC official Deepak Karki. Nepal has to bring down the prevalence rate to 0.30 by 2015 to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

According to NCASC, 18,535 cases of HIV infection have been registered across the country till date through blood tests. Among them, 11,964 are male and 6,571 are female. But NCASC has not adjusted the number of persons who may have died due to the disease. Last year, 16,262 people were registered in HIV infected list, in which 10, 569 were male and 5, 693 were female.

The surveys conducted by NCASC has shown that sex-workers have also increasingly practised safe sexual behaviors such as correct and consistent use of condoms in recent times.

NCASC said that more people are living longer and AIDS-related deaths are declining as access to treatment has expanded with over 5,000 people enrolling for ART treatment.

Published on 2011-11-17 at The Republica Daily