India Facing ‘Monstrous’ AIDS Crisis Without Government Intervention
India is one of the top global areas where AIDS "is likely to explode" as it has in sub-Saharan Africa unless the government takes swift and "bold" action, according to U.N. officials, Salon.com reports. With its "chronic shortages of water, dangerous levels of pollution, horrific urban sanitary conditions, a deteriorating public health system, and an ever-increasing number of people living in poverty," Salon.com says, "[I]t's no wonder that AIDS in India has begun to match the fears of international health officials who have been predicting a monstrous crisis." While the Indian government reports only 87,000 AIDS cases nationwide, UNAIDS estimates the actual number to be 3.7 million. But with a lack of mandatory reporting and very few AIDS treatment centers for HIV-positive Indians to receive treatment, the "actual number of people infected in India is anyone's guess," Salon.com says. Physicians at YRG Care in Madras, one of the nation's few AIDS research and treatment clinics, call the 3.7 million figure "conservative," noting that the center "routinely discovers" three or four cases of HIV in a sample of 60 to 70 people when doctors perform basic health checkups in Madras slums. A "suffocating class system and the deteriorating and overburdened public health infrastructure are only part of the problem," Salon.com says, adding that many blame the epidemic on India's middle class and its "conservative" government, while others blame it on "certain social evils." Without government intervention, the HIV/AIDS rate in India may soon "compete with the horrendous state of affairs in sub-Saharan Africa" (McColly, Salon.com, 8/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.