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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 April, 2005, 17:11 GMT 18:11 UK
HIV is 'out of control' in India
Indian sex workers attend Aids awareness class in Bangalore
It is claimed that Aids is chiefly spread among sex workers
A senior Aids expert has warned that HIV in India is "out of control".

The executive director of the Global Fund to Fight Aids said that the epidemic in India is spreading rapidly and nothing is being done to stop it.

Richard Feachem warned that India has overtaken South Africa as the country with the most HIV positive patients.

He warned that the epidemic has spread so quickly that India needed to "wake up" and take the problem seriously, otherwise millions of people will die.

Official statistics 'wrong'

"The epidemic [in India] is growing very rapidly. It is out of control. There is nothing happening in India today that is big or serious enough to prevent it," Mr Feachem said.

He warned that India has now overtaken South Africa as the country with the highest number of people living with Aids or the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV.

Aids campaigners in India
Ignorance in India about HIV is a major worry

"Official statistics show India in second place and South Africa in first place," he said, "but the official statistics are wrong. India is in first place," he told the AFP news agency.

Latest figures provided by the UN agency UNAids - released in July 2004 - show that South Africa had the highest total of people with HIV or Aids in the world, with an estimated 5.3 million infected adults and children in a range of 4.5 to 6.2 million.

India's total was put at 5.1 million, but the range estimate was far wider - from 2.5 to 8.5 million - because of the lack of reliable data there in relation to the HIV pandemic.

India has to wake up and India has to take this very, very seriously
Richard Feachem, executive director, Global Fund to Fight Aids

Mr Feachem warned that the illness would spread faster among India's Hindu population than among Muslims, because Muslims tend to be circumcised, which he said was "an acknowledged protective factor" against the Aids virus.

Widespread ignorance

The Global Health Fund was set up in 2001 by the G8 group of industrialised countries to provide funding for projects in countries worst affected by HIV/Aids, Malaria and TB.

Mr Feachem said that the biggest form of transmission in India is from heterosexual intercourse with prostitutes.

He said the problems were compounded by widespread ignorance about HIV, an illness which he said had become stigmatised.

He also criticised the high prices in India of anti-HIV drugs.

"It is easier to get Indian generic drugs in Africa than it is to get them in India. That is a scandal and has to be changed."

The Global Fund has committed more than $3bn to 300 programmes in 127 countries for combating HIV/Aids, TB and malaria.


'Indians vulnerable to HIV/Aids'
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20 Sep 04 |  South Asia
Fighting India's Aids apathy
14 Jul 04 |  South Asia
India's widening Aids epidemic
28 Nov 03 |  South Asia
India backs low-priced HIV drugs
30 Nov 03 |  South Asia
Aids threat alarms Indian PM
26 Jul 03 |  South Asia

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