WHO, UNAIDS Ask Indian Government To Report Number of AIDS Deaths in Wake of Declining Number of Reported HIV CasesUNAIDS and the World Health Organization on Thursday asked the Indian government to report the number of people in the country who died of AIDS-related causes in 2004 and previously had not been recorded as being HIV-positive in order to determine the total number of HIV-positive people living in India that year, the Indian Express reports. The request comes in response to the Indian government's announcement last month that far fewer new HIV cases were reported in 2004, compared with 2003 (Rashid, Indian Express, 6/5). According to data released by India's National AIDS Control Organization, 28,000 new HIV cases were reported in India in 2004, compared with 520,000 new cases in 2003, a nearly 95% decrease. The data -- collected by the Indian independent organizations Institute of Research in Medical Statistics and the National Institute of Health and Family Welfare -- used UNAIDS and WHO recommendations, but some AIDS advocates in the country said they dispute the numbers because no nongovernmental organizations that work with HIV-positive people have registered a corresponding drop in new demand for services (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/27). "India does not have figures of deaths due to HIV/AIDS so far, so we don't know what the new infections are," Ruben del Prado, deputy UNAIDS country coordinator, said, adding that the country cannot compare its 2003 and 2004 figures without taking into account the number of AIDS-related deaths.
Total Number of HIV Cases
The estimated number of new cases in 2004 brought the total number of HIV cases in India to about 5.134 million, according to the government. However, UNAIDS and WHO say HIV/AIDS-related deaths were not included in the NACO estimate and a comparison to the 2003 numbers cannot be made until they are. "Although we stand by the 5.134 million figure given by the government, there are reports which have quoted 95% decrease in the number of new cases," Salim Habayeb, WHO representative in India, said, adding, "We want to make it clear that although AIDS cases in India are reducing, there is no drastic decrease." Indian Health Secretary P.K. Hota said the government agrees with UNAIDS and WHO in their assessment of the sentinel data, adding, "[T]he government is not doing the sentinel surveillance to see whether there is an increase or decrease, as numbers in HIV are not important. The surveillance is done for better program management" (Indian Express, 6/5). According to a joint statement by WHO, UNAIDS and India's Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, the country's HIV prevalence among adults was 0.92% in 2004 and some regions of the country had an HIV prevalence of more than 4% (Joint statement, 6/2).