India’s Economic Growth Could Be Hindered by HIV/AIDS-Related Costs, BusinessWeek Reports
India's "booming" economy could "come crashing back to Earth" because of HIV/AIDS, which is costing the country "billions" of dollars in lost productivity and health care expenses, BusinessWeek reports. About 5.1 million HIV-positive people live in India, and the number could increase to 20 million by 2015, according to some HIV/AIDS experts. The disease is prevalent primarily among commercial sex workers and their clients nationwide and among injection drug users in northeast India near the Burmese border, according to BusinessWeek. India's HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is about 1%, but in some regions the rate is as high as 4.5%, according to Ashok Alexander, director of Avahan, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's five-year, $200 million program to fight HIV/AIDS in India (Serrill, BusinessWeek, 3/14). Avahan aims to increase condom use and decrease the incidence of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases in six Indian states. The government currently spends about $146 million, or about 29 cents per person, annually to fight HIV/AIDS, but Avahan estimates India needs to spend at least $1 billion annually on HIV/AIDS programs. The government's funding amount is not completely spent each year, and India prevents larger donations from foreign organizations by insisting money come through its hands, although the government has made an exception for the Gates Foundation (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/3). In addition to a shortfall of government funding, Alexander said challenges to fighting the disease include a lack of interest from the business community, a "sense of denial" of the problem, and a "staggering" amount of stigma and prejudice attached to HIV-positive people, according to BusinessWeek. He said that more HIV/AIDS education and "community mobilization" are needed to fight the disease in India (BusinessWeek, 3/14).
Detailed information on how the HIV/AIDS epidemic is affecting India is available online from kaisernetwork.org.