The number of people in India infected with the HIV/Aids virus has risen sharply, according to figures released on Friday.
More Indians are now suffering from HIV/Aids
More than 4.5 million Indians were infected by the end of 2002, India's National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) says.
The figure for 2001 was below four million.
The figures were released in the Indian capital, Delhi, on the eve of a major conference on HIV/Aids.
More than a thousand political leaders from across India, including the prime minister, senior federal and state officials, legislators, mayors and local leaders will attend.
It is the biggest forum on Aids ever held in India and is also being attended by UN officials and non-government organizations.
NACO says that in a number of states in the country, HIV infection among pregnant women has crossed the 1% mark for the first time.
"HIV/Aids in India is not only confined to high-risk groups and in cities, but is gradually spreading into rural areas and the general population," said NACO director, Meenakshi Datta Ghosh.
The UN's top Aids officials, Peter Piot, said the challenge was to rapidly scale up Aids prevention programmes nationwide, and ensure that Aids treatment is widely accessible to people living with HIV/Aids.
"India has a king-sized problem. Aids is spreading rapidly in the country," he told journalists in Delhi.
"But it is a problem with a solution. We can act now before it is too late."
India has the second highest rate of HIV infection afte r South Africa
The UN believes public ignorance is fuelling the spread of Aids.
So far the government has been slow to tackle the problem, partly due to pressure from conservatives who oppose any prevention that could be interpreted as promoting promiscuity.
But correspondent say attitudes are changing as the epidemic spreads.
Heterosexual transmission and intravenous drug injections are the main modes of transmission of HIV.