Drop in Number of Newly Reported HIV Cases in India Encouraging, More Efforts Needed To Fight Disease, Clinton Says
Former President Clinton on Thursday in New Delhi, India, said new data released by the country's National AIDS Control Organization showing a nearly 95% decrease in the number of newly reported HIV cases in 2004 is encouraging, but he warned that the government should not become complacent in its HIV prevention efforts, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. According to NACO data released on Wednesday, 28,000 new HIV cases were reported in India in 2004, compared with 520,000 new cases in 2003. The Indian government took credit for the drop, which has not occurred in years, according to the AP/Sun. Clinton in a speech to business leaders said that although the "government is committed to doing the right thing," it must follow through with its HIV/AIDS programs. "You will move from being the world's number one worry to being the number one model if you follow through the plans you have," he said (Mahapatra, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 5/26). During his two-day visit to India, Clinton also was scheduled to speak on HIV prevention and about relief efforts in response to the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the AP/Yahoo! News reports. He is scheduled to meet with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other top government officials, as well as groups working on HIV prevention (AP/Yahoo! News, 5/25).
Doubts Cloud New Numbers
The new HIV data -- collected by the Indian independent organizations Institute of Research in Medical Statistics and the National Institute of Health and Family Welfare using UNAIDS and World Health Organization recommendations -- bring a "glimmer of hope" in the fight against the disease in India, Xinhua News Agencyt reports (Xinhua News Agency, 5/26). However, some AIDS advocates in the country said they are "dismayed" and "perturbed" by the numbers because no nongovernmental organizations that work with HIV-positive people have registered a corresponding drop in new demand for services, London's Guardian reports. "All the NGOs I know have recorded increases in the number of people accepting help because of HIV," Anjali Gopalan of the Naz Foundation, a not-for-profit HIV/AIDS advocacy group, said, adding, "I am really worried that we are just burying our head in the sand over this" (Ramesh, Guardian, 5/26). However, UNAIDS and WHO representatives endorsed the figures, according to the Indian Express. "We support these numbers," WHO representative in India Salim Habayeb said, adding, "The methodology used in India is internationally recognized and used all over the world" (Indian Express, 5/26). Health and Family Welfare Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said that the exact number of new HIV cases does not matter in the context of the government's efforts to fight the disease. "As far as the government is concerned, the number 28,000 or 280,000 is not of importance," Ramadoss said, adding, "We will go all out against HIV/AIDS irrespective of numbers. The success till now is the result of a concerted effort to create awareness about the disease and the stringent monitoring and surveillance at the grassroots." Taking the new data into account, there were 5.13 million HIV-positive people in India at the end of 2004, according to government statistics, Xinhua News Agency reports (Xinhua News Agency, 5/26). Ramadoss said there will be an independent assessment of the new figures, BBC News reports (BBC News, 5/25).
Clinton Foundation Work in India
Clinton last month announced that the Clinton Foundation is pledging $10 million to provide treatment to approximately 10,000 children living with HIV/AIDS in 10 countries -- including India -- and expand the foundation's efforts in rural areas. Indian pharmaceutical company Cipla has agreed to sell the foundation its pediatric antiretroviral syrups and pills at half their normal price because the foundation is placing large orders, Ira Magaziner, chair of the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative, said. The foundation plans to spend about $2 million on pediatric antiretroviral drugs and will provide $3 million to clinics in 10 countries where local doctors can be trained to treat children, according to Magaziner (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/12). The foundation also has introduced business-based procedures in the country's health care and treatment infrastructures to improve drug storage, tracking and distribution, program management and information sharing, India's Economic Times reports. The program has recruited experts in business, logistics, HIV/AIDS clinical care and public health to provide technical assistance (Duttagupta, Economic Times, 5/26).
Clinton in Ireland
Clinton on Tuesday in Dublin, Ireland, at a fundraiser for an HIV/AIDS program in Africa urged the Irish people to support programs to fight the disease, the Irish Independent reports. Clinton said the percentage of the estimated 40 million HIV-positive people worldwide who have access to antiretroviral drugs is "pathetically small," according to the Independent (O'Keeffe, Irish Independent, 5/25). He said the Irish government has been "quite generous" in contributing to the global HIV/AIDS fight, the Irish Times reports. However, Clinton added that governments do not have the capacity to address the pandemic without the work of NGOs, which rely on private donations. "We cannot just say anymore, 'Why doesn't the government do something about it?'" Clinton said, adding, "The good news is we can turn this thing around in a hurry." The fundraiser was expected to raise about $251,000 for the Rose Project, a not-for-profit group that provides food, medicine and treatment to HIV/AIDS-affected families in Kenya (Healy, Irish Times, 5/25).