India To Hire Private Consultants To Determine Number of HIV-Positive People Living in Country, Health Minister Says
India plans to ask a private consulting firm to research how many HIV-positive people are living in the country, Indian Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said Monday, BBC News reports. The health ministry has short-listed Tata Consultancy Services, the Indian Institute of Management and McKinsey & Company to compete for the project, and it plans to make a decision within one month about which firm will conduct the survey, Ramadoss said (BBC News, 9/20). "We feel ashamed when visitors to India express apprehension over the AIDS situation here," Ramadoss said, adding, "We want to check this (HIV/AIDS) before this becomes an economic burden" (AFP/Independent Online, 9/20). Ramadoss said that the survey eventually will be integrated into a broader five-year disease surveillance project that also would monitor other diseases in India, the Statesman reports. The World Bank will fund 75% of the survey, and the state-run National AIDS Control Organization will fund the remaining 25% (Statesman, 9/20).
India's HIV/AIDS Numbers Disputed
In July, NACO said that India had 5.1 million HIV-positive people, second in the world to South Africa's 5.3 million (AFP/Independent Online, 9/20). However, Richard Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, last week 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 current estimate fails to take into account the HIV-positive people in the country who are unaware of their HIV status or have not disclosed it. Feachem said that 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 number of HIV-positive people in India, he said he believes 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" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/16). Two years ago, the U.S National Intelligence Council estimated that there were five million to eight million HIV-positive people in India, and the number could reach 20 million to 25 million by 2010 (BBC News, 9/20). India recorded 520,000 new HIV cases in 2003, down from 610,000 cases in 2002; the government said that the decline proves its anti-AIDS approach is working, AFP/Independent Online reports. However, nongovernmental AIDS organizations working in the country have questioned the data, saying that the government "excessively" advocates abstinence and avoids "breaking social taboos" through the promotion of safe sex, according to AFP/Independent Online (AFP/Independent Online, 9/20).