India Must Enhance HIV/AIDS Programs in Uttar Pradesh to Accurately Estimate Number of Cases, Defeat Epidemic, Advocates Say
September 13, 2006
India must scale up its HIV/AIDS programs in the densely populated state of Uttar Pradesh to accurately estimate the number of HIV-positive people and curb the epidemic, according to HIV/AIDS advocates, Reuters India reports. The state -- one of India's poorest -- has 15,000 recorded HIV/AIDS cases. However, because of inadequate testing facilities and the social stigma associated with the disease, the number might be considerably underestimated, according to HIV/AIDS advocates. "Political apathy, bureaucratic sloth and desperate poverty" contribute to the epidemic in the state, Reuters India reports. In addition, only three hospitals in the state of 170 million people provide antiretroviral drugs at no cost. Government-run clinics in India provide antiretrovirals at no cost to about 50,000 HIV-positive people countrywide, a "fraction" of those who need them, according to Reuters India. According to HIV/AIDS advocates, the lack of information about the disease, in addition to the inadequately administered state health care system, makes the state a "potential AIDS time bomb," Reuters India reports. "States like Uttar Pradesh are gray zones which could blow up in our face," Anjali Gopalan, executive director of Naz Foundation India Trust, said. Denis Broun, country coordinator for UNAIDS in India, said, "We need to be pro-active rather than reactive and go after information rather than wait for it to come to us in a format we like." According to Reuters India, officials plan to double the number of HIV testing and surveillance sites in the state to more than 80 by the end of 2006 (Zaheer, Reuters India, 9/11).
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