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Friday, 22 June, 2001, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
India to regulate Aids drugs adverts
Guitarist Salman Ahmed of the Pakistani pop group Junoon is campaigning as a UN spokesman against HIV/Aids
The UN has launched Aids education programmes in South Asia
By Rajyasri Rao in Delhi

India's health ministry is moving to regulate advertisements for anti-Aids drugs following complaints about a TV commercial.

The advert, put out by a leading pharmaceutical company, is currently running on some private TV channels.

Critics say it seems to offer the hope of a magical cure.

Three and a half million Indians are infected with the HIV virus - making up 10% of the world's total of HIV infected people.

Believe in hope

The controversial advert - put out by the Cipla pharmaceutical company - highlights the need for Aids patients to believe in hope.

Without mentioning Cipla's own set of anti-Aids drugs, the advert shows reasonably healthy-looking people who say they have Aids - but are living with it.

AZT, a drug that has helped combat Aids
Aids can be controlled but not cured with drugs
The health ministry received complaints that the advert seems to offer a cure for Aids by presenting healthy looking people who talk about not having to die of the syndrome.

As a result the health ministry is now in the process of requiring all advertisements for anti-Aids drugs to get permission from the ministry before being broadcast.

Although there is some debate about how many have died of Aids in India so far, even the most conservative estimates put the toll at 17,000.

Inadequate education

Experts say that groups considered to be at an especially high risk of contracting the HIV virus and unknowingly spreading it - commercial sex workers and truck drivers - are still inadequately informed.

As a result the 14-year-old national body to prevent and control the spread of Aids has predominantly focused on awareness campaigns.

But drug companies and some voluntary organisations have been arguing for some time that attention also needs to be paid to those people who have already been infected.

They say that those infected not only need counselling on how to live with HIV but also information about the drugs available for its treatment.

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See also:

30 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
India HIV prisoner fights release
30 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Asia's burgeoning Aids epidemic
15 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Aids explodes on trafficking routes
14 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
South-East Asia 'facing Aids crisis'
03 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Drug users fuel Aids explosion
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