Indian Parliamentary Meeting on AIDS Showed ‘United Front,’ But More Needs To Be Done
Although Indian politicians "are waking up to" India's HIV/AIDS crisis, AIDS advocates say that the government must dedicate more money to health and begin "frank" discussions about sex and condoms, the Financial Times reports. India has about 4.6 million HIV-positive residents, second only to South Africa's five million HIV-positive individuals. The rising numbers of cases show that prevention programs in India "are not working," according to the Times (Marcelo, Financial Times, 7/30). Indian political leaders over the weekend discussed the epidemic at the National Convention of the Parliamentary Forum on HIV/AIDS, the country's first national conference on the disease (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/28). About 1,000 politicians attended the meeting, including Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to "symbolize a united front" against the disease, the Times reports. According to Dr. Bobby John, director of Massive Effort Campaign in India, the national AIDS control organization lacks a comprehensive plan to deliver treatment and services outside of large cities and towns. He said that India's tuberculosis control program, which includes 700 million people, could serve as a model for a national HIV/AIDS prevention program. Although the AIDS control program has developed "comprehensive-sounding" HIV prevention policies, including promoting condoms and safe sex, some political conservatives have criticized the programs, saying that they promote "promiscuity," according to the Times. UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot warned conference attendees that HIV prevention programs "need a combination of abstinence, being faithful and condom use. ... If you cannot talk about sex, you cannot attack AIDS." In addition, the government spends $4 per person on health, about 1% of the country's gross domestic product. "The real problem is the mobilization of resources," Kapil Sibal of the opposition Congress Party said, adding, "The health sector is such a low priority in India. If we don't have basic health care, how can we fight AIDS?" (Financial Times, 7/30).
More 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.