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Wednesday, November 10, 1999 Published at 14:26 GMT

World: South Asia

India 'will be top Aids nation'

An Aids awareness march in New Delhi

India is likely to have the highest number of Aids cases in the world by early next century, according to the World Bank.

A World Bank official, Mieko Nishimizu, called on the government to strengthen efforts to prevent HIV infection and Aids reaching epic proportions in the country.

Ms Nishimizu, who is the vice president of the South Asian section of the World Bank, was touring the country to review its Aids control projects.

"India is acting like a HIV reservoir which, if it breaks, will cause havoc in entire South Asia," she warned.

However, she said India was managing the problem of Aids and HIV better than other countries in the region.

"In India, data on HIV prevalence and facilities to deal with the problem are available unlike other countries in this region," she said.

Financial assistance

Ms Nishimizu said the World Bank would continue to assist India financially in its anti-Aids programmes.

A BBC correspondent says the country's Aids programme runs primarily on soft loans from the Bank.

The World Bank is to provide nearly $200 million for the National Aids Control Organisation (Naco) which runs the programme.

A Naco spokesman told the BBC that in the next five years their campaign would focus on counselling, promoting the use of condoms and ensuring strict monitoring of blood donation.

The spokesman said awareness needed to be raised among high-risk groups including sex workers, truck drivers and intravenous drug users.

Growing numbers

On Tuesday, the Indian Government released an official report confirming that nearly 3.5 million people in the country are infected with the HIV virus.

These include 1.4 million males and 800,000 women in urban areas.

Five states - Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Manipur, Karnataka and Maharashtra - account for more than 50% of all Aids cases.

However, the World Health Organisation has said the figure for Indians carrying the HIV virus is seven million.

Other estimates put the figure closer to five million.

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