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Health Experts Say India's HIV/AIDS Epidemic Could "Spin Out of Control" Despite Prevention, Treatment Funds

October 23, 2003

Health experts are concerned that the HIV/AIDS epidemic in India is threatening to "spin out of control," despite increased government attention to the disease and "generous" prevention and treatment funding, the Financial Times reports. There are currently about 4.58 million HIV-positive people in India, and that figure could "leap" to tens of millions in less than 10 years, according to the Times. Despite the fact that India's political leaders view the disease as a national health and social crisis, and money for prevention and treatment programs has been "pouring" into the country, the World Bank says that the country is "not yet beating" HIV/AIDS, according to the Times. The Indian government, the World Bank, aid donors and philanthropic groups have pledged $621 million towards treatment and prevention programs between 2000 and 2005, the Times reports.

Current, Future Plans
According to India's National AIDS Control Project, 35 state-level HIV/AIDS control programs and 735 non-governmental organizations lack the resources to effectively battle the disease, the Times reports. Approximately 33% of state HIV/AIDS control positions remain unfilled; NGOs do not have the technical skills to implement state policies; field information is lacking because only 40% of groups on the ground regularly submit statistics to the National AIDS Control Project's database; and the National AIDS Control Organisation has not provided state groups sufficient technical assistance and has not adequately supervised how NGOs deliver services, according to the Times. NACO project director Meenakshi Datta Ghosh said that NACO projects alone cannot stop HIV/AIDS, according to the Financial Times. "We need to tap the primary health care system," Ghosh said, adding, "We have 5,000 community health centers across the country. But these centers are not equipped to deal with people living with HIV and AIDS." According to the Times, the Indian government wants to see more public-private partnerships aimed at fighting HIV/AIDS. The management consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton plans to release a "simulation" of companies, NGOs, government agencies and health experts working together to battle HIV/AIDS in India, according to the Times. Heather Burns, a senior vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton, said that the simulation will show that the groups cooperating could reduce HIV/AIDS prevalence in 2010 from the projected estimates of between 4% and 5% to 2%. However, Indian parliamentarian Oscar Fernandes said, "To say that we'll handle this problem within a period of five years, or even in 10 years, is wishful thinking" (Marcelo, Financial Times, 10/22).

More information on HIV/AIDS in India is available online as part of's Issue Spotlight on HIV/AIDS.

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