India Surpasses South Africa as Country With Most HIV Cases, Global Fund Director Says
India likely has more HIV cases than any other country in the world, despite official statistics that cite South Africa as the country with the most HIV-positive people, Richard Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said on Wednesday while in India, the AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. According to the most recent United Nations data, India has 5.1 million HIV cases, while South Africa has 5.6 million. However, Feachem said that he and other HIV/AIDS experts believe the actual number of HIV-positive people in India is much higher than the reported figure because the estimate fails to take into account the HIV-positive people in the country who are unaware of their HIV status or have not reported it. Feachem said the Indian HIV/AIDS epidemic is "on an African trajectory ... and incidence of HIV/AIDS is rising rapidly." Although he said he could not estimate the possible number of HIV-positive people in India, he said he believed the number is "considerably more" than 5.1 million. He added, "I am happy to be wrong. But I think I will be proved right, soon." India has increased efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in recent years, and the federal health minister earlier this month said he is ready to commission an independent body to compile HIV data in India. However, Feachem said the country's response is "way short of what is necessary to turn around the epidemic." Indian government officials were not available for comment on Feachem's statements, according to the AP/Post-Intelligencer (Mahapatra, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/16). During Feachem's three-day visit to India, he is scheduled to meet with the country's prime minister, finance minister and health minister to discuss the seriousness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/10). A kaisernetwork.org video feature on HIV/AIDS in India is available online. The report -- prepared by Fred de Sam Lazaro, also a correspondent for the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer -- includes interviews with people who are on the front lines of India's efforts.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.