India Must Act To Prevent Tens of Millions of HIV Cases, UNAIDS Director Says; 4.58M Indians Already HIV-Positive
India must act now to promote condom use, eliminate the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and encourage open discussion of the disease in order to avoid "tens of millions of new infections," UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said in an interview on Wednesday ahead of India's upcoming first National Convention of the Parliamentary Forum on HIV/AIDS, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (Castelnau, AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/25). The meeting, which will be held this weekend in New Delhi, will bring together 1,500 lawmakers from all parties and levels of government to enact legislation and allocate funding to fight HIV/AIDS (Reaney, Reuters, 7/24). The National AIDS Control Organisation today announced that there were 4.58 million HIV-positive Indians at the end of 2002, a significant increase over the 3.97 million cases reported in 2001. Meenakshi Datta Ghosh, project director of NACO, said that 61.5% of HIV-positive Indians are men, adding that the disease is no longer affecting only high-risk groups or city populations, as it "is gradually spreading into rural areas and the general population" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/25). In several Indian states, more than 1% of pregnant women are HIV-positive (BBC News, 7/25). As many as 25 million Indians could be HIV-positive by 2010, according to the U.S. National Intelligence Council (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/25). Piot said that the fact that every party in India has become involved in the meeting is "important," adding that "it is extremely rare that all parties (in India) gather together around one theme with one agenda." Piot also said that the meeting could serve as a "blueprint" for other Asian nations in their response to the epidemic, where dense populations means that even a small rise in the percentage of HIV-positive people could be "disastrous," according to Reuters (Reuters, 7/24).
Additional information on AIDS in India is available online through kaisernetwork.org's Issue Spotlight on HIV/AIDS.
A kaisernetwork.org video feature on AIDS in India is available online.