India Must Improve Response to HIV/AIDS
"India's leaders have barely any time left before HIV/AIDS dooms tens of millions," author Siddharth Dube writes in a Washington Post op-ed. Despite "record" economic expansion, poverty remains prevalent and a growing HIV/AIDS epidemic is "increasingly to blame." More than four million Indians, many of them skilled and educated middle class workers, are infected with HIV, and more than two million adults have already died of the disease. Dube predicts that "far worse lies ahead" because the government's "lagging" prevention efforts have failed to decrease infections, which double every 18 months. At the current rate, 35 million Indians -- 5% of the country's adult population -- could be infected by 2005. The epidemic, which began in the "prospering western and southern states" of the nation, continues to spread because of a "gigantic commercial sex industry" in urban areas populated mostly by men, and because a "powerful taboo" on discussion of sex leaves the majority of Indians "grossly ignorant of sexual matters." Public information campaigns "evade sexual issues" and have "spawned dangerous new myths, such as HIV is spread only by vaginal sex." The government has borrowed nearly $300 million from the World Bank over the last decade for prevention efforts, but the epidemic is "running far ahead of the government's response." Information remains vague and "human rights abuses linked to HIV/AIDS are still legion." Dube concludes that the government's "failure of leadership will mean a calamity for many million Indians" (Washington Post, 1/4).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.