India Not Taking AIDS Treatment, Prevention Seriously Enough, NPR Reports
Many health officials fear that India is "falling far behind Africa" in treating and preventing AIDS and is "sitting on a ticking time bomb," NPR's "All Things Considered" reported yesterday. The topic of providing AIDS treatments in India is "barely on the radar screen," despite the fact that generic drug makers Cipla and Hetero are located in the country. According to the World Health Organization, India is second only to South Africa in the number of HIV-positive individuals living in the country. Cipla Chairman Yusuf Hamied said, "In India today, there are 3,500 fresh HIV-positive cases per day. And the forecast is that by 2005 in India there will be 35 million HIV-positive cases. Now to me, this is a foreseen tragedy, unlike the Gujarat [earthquake] ... which was an unforseen tragedy, and we're not taking this seriously enough." Javier Prasada Rah, head of India's AIDS control effort, said that because most of the population is HIV-negative, government money should go for prevention, not treatment for those infected with HIV. For example, Michael's Care Home in New Delhi, with just 26 beds, is one of only two facilities for HIV-positive individuals in a metropolitan area of 14 million. Currently, government public service announcements only promote abstinence, "reinforcing the very strong social taboo against premarital or extramarital sex." STD Specialist Dr. Bidra George said that the perception of those who go outside the cultural boundaries as "sinful or morally unrighteous," combined with government "scare tactics" equating HIV with AIDS and AIDS with death, add to the social stigma of the disease. According to Indian health care workers, truckers who engage in unprotected sex with prostitutes and return home to possibly infect their wives represent "one of the primary methods" of HIV transmission in India, yet neither prostitutes nor wives can insist on condoms "in a society where most women are equal in law only." To listen to the full report in RealAudio, enter http://search.npr.org/cf/cmn/cmnpd01fm.cfm?PrgDate=03/14/2001&PrgID=2 into your Web browser and scroll down to the "AIDS in India" story (Sullivan, "All Things Considered," NPR, 3/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.