Indian Prime Minister Urges Action Against HIV/AIDS, Calls for Development of AIDS Vaccine
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on Saturday urged lawmakers, private enterprises and individuals to join the fight against the disease and aid in the development of an AIDS vaccine, Agence France-Presse reports. "For all of us in India the spread of [HIV/AIDS] and taking good care of victims has become an urgent national task. It is a concern that is shared equally by the central and state governments, as also by all political parties," Vajpayee said. He stated that it is particularly important that HIV prevention efforts reach those most "vulnerable" to HIV infection, such as those who cannot read. Vajpayee also called on the scientific community to develop "country-specific" AIDS vaccines. He noted that research efforts have largely focused on HIV subtype B, which is the strain of the virus most prevalent in the United States and Thailand. But HIV subtype C is the viral strain most present in India, and Vajpayee said that a vaccine targeting that strain must be developed soon. The Indian government last year signed a pact with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative to develop an AIDS vaccine for the Indian population, and the first phase of clinical trials for the vaccine could begin in late 2003. India has said it will also look to collaborate with China and South Africa on AIDS vaccine research. India has registered almost four million cases of HIV infection, but unofficial estimates say that the number of HIV-positive Indians may be closer to five million (Chakravarty, Agence France-Presse, 5/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.