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Wednesday, 15 December, 1999, 19:04 GMT
India launches Aids action plan

An Aids awareness campaign in a Delhi brothel An Aids awareness campaign in a Delhi brothel

By Jyotsna Singh in Delhi

India has launched the second phase of its Aids control project with a call to tackle what the authorities describe as one of the biggest health challenges facing Indian society.

Government reports say that nearly 3.5 million people in India are carrying the HIV virus.

International health agencies have warned the figure may treble in the next decade unless urgent steps are taken.

At the inauguration of the second phase of the National Aids Control Project, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, KC Pant, said the foremost task before the country was to build mechanisms to integrate Aids programmes with ongoing health schemes at district and state level.

Mr Pant said the government is fully aware of the dimensions of the problem and has initiated certain measures to tackle it.

Safe sex

Earlier the junior health minister, NT Shanmugam, said that the thrust of the second phase of the project was to promote sexual awareness, because unsafe sex was responsible for infecting more than 80% of those infected with HIV.

He said the need to promote safe sex among women, youths and migrants must be underlined.

Mr Shanmugam said that the National Aids Control Organisation (Naco) had recently launched a mass awareness programme about highly prevalent infections in the country such as sexually transmitted diseases.

As part of this strategy, health volunteers have been carrying out house to house surveys, and those with the problem will be treated at the nearest health care centre.

Mr Shanmugam said that the government hopes to expand the programme across the country.

Limited success

Analysts say that the first phase of the Naco project, which ended two years ago, achieved only limited success as it was mostly confined to just creating a general awareness about the disease.

Non-governmental organisations working in the field have stressed that the programme needs to focus on effective prevention of the disease.

The Indian Government's renewed efforts to tackle Aids comes amid repeated warnings from international health experts that the condition is threatening to reach epidemic proportions.

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See also:
10 Nov 99 |  South Asia
India 'will be top Aids nation'
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India's temple to the Aids goddess
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India Aids alert

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