Researcher makes the case for HIV prevention

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 October, 2011, 12:00am


A Hong Kong researcher's study of a large-scale HIV prevention programme in India has been published in a leading medical journal.

Dr Mary Ng Tan-hung and her team's research found that a five-year programme which spent US$256 million in six Indian states had successfully prevented 100,178 HIV infections.

She argued that prevention was far more cost-effective treatment.

'More funding is generally put into HIV treatment than prevention,' she said. 'Our study provided support and evidence for the effectiveness of prevention programmes.'

As the lead author of the team of six researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, Ng spent two years on the study.

The report was published in The Lancet last week. Ng also teaches in the University of Hong Kong's education faculty.

The prevention programme in India, which ran from 2003 to 2008, was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

It provided services such as counselling, condom distribution and provision of clean syringes for high- risk groups including sex workers, homosexuals and injecting drug users. People in the high-risk groups were identified by local community organisations.

The research found that the programme had significant impact in three states but not in the other three.

Ng said the reason for the lack of success in one of the three states was low HIV prevalence because of an existing government programme.

HIV infection is generally declining in India, with less than 1 per cent of the total population infected.

The cases are concentrated in the high-risk groups, which have an infection rate of more than 5 per cent, Ng said.