India Primarily To Promote Condom Use in its HIV Prevention Programs, Health Minister Says
India primarily will promote condoms to prevent HIV transmission as part of the government's five-year, $2.5 billion HIV/AIDS initiative, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said recently, Bloomberg News reports. The initiative -- which is funded by the government, companies, aid agencies and not-for-profit groups -- aims to allocate 80% of the "money and focus" to preventing new HIV cases, with condoms being the primary prevention method promoted, Ramadoss said. The government has installed 11,000 condom vending machines in colleges, train stations, gas stations, roadside restaurants and hospitals. According to Ramadoss, the government by the end of 2007 plans to have 100,000 vending machines installed, as well as increase the number of surveillance sites from about 700 to 1,200. He added that the number of centers providing testing, counseling, treatment and prenatal care will increase from 2,875 to 5,000 in two years. "We have spent a whole load of money on awareness," Ramadoss said, adding, "But the actual usage of condoms, that's my problem. That's what we're trying to tackle now." He said about 86% of the country's HIV-positive people contracted the virus through sexual intercourse (Datta, Bloomberg News, 9/1). According to a UNAIDS report released in May, about 5.7 million HIV-positive people live in India. The country's National AIDS Control Organization in a report released in April said there were 72,000 new reported HIV cases in India in 2005, increasing the total number of HIV-positive adults living in the country to about 5.2 million (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/25). About 124,000 people have disclosed to the government that they are HIV-positive, according to Ramadoss (Bloomberg News, 9/1).
Court Asks Government To Explain Why Treatment Target Not Met
In related news, India's Supreme Court on Thursday asked the government by the end of September to explain how it set a target of providing 100,000 HIV-positive people treatment at no cost by 2005 and why it has delayed the target twice, Reuters AlertNet reports (Reuters AlertNet, 8/31). The government in April 2004 launched the program by distributing antiretroviral drugs at no cost at seven centers nationwide (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/2/04). According to a status report released by the government after the court's ruling, 36,110 HIV-positive people as of July 31 were receiving antiretrovirals at no cost at 54 NACO clinics, IANS/DailyIndia.com reports (IANS/DailyIndia.com, 8/31). The not-for-profit groups Common Cause, Sahara, Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust and the Voluntary Health Association of Punjab told the three-member high court on Thursday that the government's treatment target is insufficient and has not been achieved. Chief Justice of India Y.K. Sabharwal said, "What's the difficulty? Why was the target year shifted?" NACO has said that it is difficult to provide regular access to antiretrovirals to HIV-positive people in rural areas (Reuters AlertNet, 8/31). According to Ramadoss, the number of centers around the country dispensing antiretrovirals at no cost will increase by the end of September from 60 to 100. In addition, the government by 2007 hopes to reach the 100,000 target, as well as increase the number of centers providing HIV/AIDS treatment, testing, counseling and prenatal checkups from 2,875 to 5,000 in the next two years, Ramadoss said (Bloomberg News, 9/1).