New kaisernetwork.org Feature Examines AIDS in India
Aided by grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, India seems to be "gearing up" to overcome its "slow start" to confronting the AIDS epidemic, according to a new kaisernetwork.org video feature, one in a series of spotlights on local efforts around the world to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The country officially has four million HIV-positive people, but some AIDS experts predict that the actual number could be as high as 10 million. The National Intelligence Council has predicted that the number of HIV-positive Indians could reach 20 million in the next seven years (de Sam Lazaro, kaisernetwork.org, 7/8). CDC Director Julie Gerberding on Thursday at a briefing in Singapore said that India will face an AIDS "catastrophe" unless additional efforts to stem the spread of HIV are developed. "[I]n some countries, like Cambodia and China and India, the public health measures have yet to take hold," Gerberding said. She added that the epidemic "is really in that phase of scaling up very, very quickly" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/3).
A New Path
India has recently "turned a corner" in the fight against HIV/AIDS, according to Meenakshi Datta Ghosh, head of the government's AIDS program. However, the country's response to AIDS has been hampered by social conditions and class consciousness. "Most of the people think this disease is a disease of prostitutes and truck drivers, so it can't happen to me and that is one major reason why I think infections are spreading," Dr. Suniti Solomon, who in 1986 diagnosed the first AIDS case in India, said, adding, "I think the people who are most affected in India today are the women. Eighty percent of the women who come to us who are infected have a single partner and that's their husband." The government is compiling HIV/AIDS statistics and working with nongovernmental organizations and the private sector to use a recent Global Fund grant to develop pilot projects to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission and distribute antiretroviral drugs. In addition, a new weekly television series, called "Detective Vijay," integrates HIV/AIDS prevention messages into its storylines. The show is popular in northern India, where HIV prevalence is still low (kaisernetwork.org, 7/8). The video -- prepared for kaisernetwork.org by Fred de Sam Lazaro, who is a correspondent for the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer -- is available online, along with additional information and resources about India.