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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May, 2005, 18:21 GMT 19:21 UK
Clinton lauds India Aids campaign
Bill Clinton addressing Indian business leaders in Delhi
Bill Clinton says India can lead the way in Aids treatment and care
Former US President Bill Clinton has praised India's success in combating Aids and said it could be a world leader in treating the HIV virus.

"India has gone from being the world's number one worry to being the world's number one marvel," he said in the Indian capital Delhi.

However, Indian Aids campaigners are casting doubt over government figures showing a dramatic fall in new cases.

India has the second highest number of HIV-infected people after South Africa.

Training doctors

"I think your government is committed to doing the right thing, Mr Clinton told Indian business leaders in Delhi.

You can't imagine what you can do for the whole world's fight against Aids
Bill Clinton

The former president said India had the chance to lead the way in HIV/Aids treatment because of its large generic drugs industry.

His HIV/Aids Initiative foundation has also signed an agreement with the Indian government to train 150,000 doctors in HIV/Aids care and treatment over the next few months.

"You can't imagine what you can do for the whole world's fight against Aids if we can really train all these medical personnel in a short amount of time and get this medicine out there," he said.

But he also urged India to continue to show urgency in dealing with the spread of Aids.

Numbers controversy

However, Mr Clinton's comments coincided with a growing argument about how successful India's fight against HIV/Aids really is.

Aids campaigners in India
India says its awareness drive is getting through

On Wednesday, Indian health officials said initial estimates showed only 28,000 people became infected in 2004, compared with 520,000 in 2003.

But Aids campaigners on Thursday poured scorn on those figures.

"These numbers are amazing as, every month, we are seeing more and more infected people particularly new cases coming to our clinics," Irfan Khan of the private Naz Foundation said, Reuters news agency reports.

Nafisa Ali of the Action India Trust commented: "They must be joking. I just can't agree that the rate of growth of new infections has fallen so sharply. Many rural people don't even have access to basic health services."

Even the government's own science minister, Kapil Sibal, conceded there was room for error. "Our numbers may not be exactly accurate," he said.

However, the director of the state-run National Aids Control Organisation which compiled the figures, SY Quraishi, is standing by the figures.

"Initially, even we were sceptical... but eventually we too were satisfied that these figures are reliable," he said.

He has attributed the fall to the government focusing its health campaigns on high-risk groups such as sex workers, truck-drivers and drug addicts.




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SEE ALSO:
India rejects HIV infection claim
20 Apr 05 |  South Asia
HIV is 'out of control' in India
19 Apr 05 |  South Asia
'Indians vulnerable to HIV/Aids'
05 Apr 05 |  South Asia
India to cross-check Aids numbers
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


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