Friday, September 17, 2004

Another dubious first for India

According to Richard Feachem of the Global Fund, India has overtaken South Africa and is now the country with the most HIV infections.

Latest U.N. data show the HIV virus has infected 5.6 million people in South Africa and 5.1 million in India. But Feachem said he and many other experts believe India's actual figure is much higher, surpassing South Africa's. The official estimate leaves out many people in this vast country of 1.03 billion who could be carrying the virus without knowing or reporting it, he said. "I won't put a figure on it. I will simply say it is considerably more than 5.1 million," he said. "I am happy to be wrong. But I think I will proved right, soon." Feachem called the Indian epidemic "on an African trajectory ... and incidence of HIV/AIDS is rising rapidly."

This is very bad news. If anything, these numbers are on the lower side because of under-reporting and the difficulty of gathering accurate data in large parts of the country. Once the disease spreads from high-risk populations into the mainstream, controlling it will prove to be ten times as difficult and there is a real danger this might already be happening. I can only hope this will serve as a wake-up call for politicians and bureaucrats involved with the health ministry. Unless this situation is tackled on a war-footing (and yes, that includes mentioning the words 'condom' and 'sex' in public), this could turn out to be a real disaster for the country. The economic and human costs of the devastation wrought by HIV/AIDS are severe. Ask Botswana.

Source: Zoo Station

No comments: