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Last Updated: Friday, 2 December 2005, 12:37 GMT
US Aids plan under fire in India
By Suvojit Bagchi
BBC News, Delhi

Aids activist Rajendra Kumar Tiwari displays an inflated condom to a rickshaw driver during an AIDS campaign in Allahabad
Aids activist shows an inflated condom to a rickshaw driver
A global US emergency plan on preventing HIV has been described as a "disaster" by Aids activists in India.

They say the US President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief is wrong to stress sexual abstinence and fidelity rather than use of condoms.

The plan, which is operating in over 120 countries, was introduced in India in March.

More than five million people in India are HIV positive. Only South Africa has more people with the virus.


Under the emergency plan, the US government will provide $30m to some 200 non-governmental organisations working on controlling the disease in India.

Students dressed as skeletons representing unprotected sexual relationship in Agartalla, Tripura
Students dressed as skeletons representing unprotected sex

Many Indian experts say the policy is 'impractical' and works against the federal government's Aids control programmes, which revolve around increased use of condoms.

"The plan is against use of condoms. This is directly against the policy of the National Aids Control Authority (Naco) of India," says Dr Smarajit Jana, a member of Naco and the National Aids Council, the highest body monitoring the disease in India.

Some Indian officials also say the US programme discourages sex workers from complaining about police harassment.

But Janet Hayman, coordinator of the plan in India, says Indian experts have wrongly interpreted it.

"Among the high risk groups we are doing targeted interventions and those interventions require the use of condoms," she says.

But the plan's first message to youth is to abstain from sex and to delay sex until they are married, she added.

Ms Hayman said the US would continue to support the Indian government in its Aids prevention measures, and would "not prohibit" partner countries from providing services to those at high risk of contracting HIV, including sex workers.

Federal health minister, Anbumani Ramadoss, told the BBC that India would see more "condom campaigns" in the coming years.

And he said that India's Aids prevention policy was not "dependent on any other country."

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