Epidemiological surveillance has played a key role in not only identifying the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) but also its modes of transmission and methods of prevention. In India, laboratory-based surveillance of HIV was initiated in high risk groups in 1990s, which was later expanded to antenatal care clinics. On the basis of surveillance, high risk geographic areas and populations were identified; and preventive behaviour change interventions were targeted to high risk groups in mid 1990s. In 2003, our analysis of HIV sentinel surveillance data revealed a declining trend in HIV in India. Further analysis, indicated that targeted sexual behaviour change interventions among high risk groups had been responsible for the decline in HIV. The number of surveillance sites were increased, which led to identification of new HIV epidemics among Injecting Drug Users of Western India and the epidemic in India was re-characterized as concentrated epidemic. In conclusion, the systemic analysis and interpretation of routinely collected surveillance data provides new insights for preventive actions. The targeted public health approach of behaviour change led to the decline of HIV in India even before discovery of vaccine or drug for prevention.
About Professor Rajesh Kumar
Professor Kumar who is Head of School of Public Health, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India, was awarded an MD in Social and Preventive Medicine from Rohtak Medical College in 1984, and MSC in Epidemiology from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1992. His professional life of 30 years is enriched with experience of health system research, planning and evaluation of public health programs, and capacity building of public health workforce. He has worked as a Temporary Adviser to WHO, and has received several honours, including a Fellowship of National Academy of Medical Sciences, Indian Public Health Association of Preventive and Social Medicine.