Indian Ministry of Defense Encourages Wives of Military Personnel To Take HIV Prevention Measures
India's Ministry of Defence has launched a campaign to encourage the wives of military personnel to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS following the "rapid spread" of the disease through the country's military, the Financial Times reports. Although current data on HIV prevalence among India's military is not available, a statement submitted to parliament last year estimated that 0.028% of the country's armed forces are HIV-positive -- a "fraction" of the national prevalence, the Times reports. According to the Times, India has 1.3 million active military personnel, 535,000 reserve force members and 1.3 million paramilitary forces.
According to the Times, military personnel are up to five times more likely than the general population to contract sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, during peacetime, and the risk is higher during conflict. In addition, two of the country's six states with high HIV prevalence are in the northwest of the country, where many military personnel are stationed. Yogendra Singh, director general of the Armed Forces Medical Services, said that the "youthful, exuberant and aggressive attitude of our troops, combined with the long separation from families and high mobility, has compounded the risks faced by" the wives of military personnel. Lt. Gen. Bhopinder Singh has said that more of the country's soldiers are dying from AIDS-related causes than because of combat (Johnson, Financial Times, 6/14).