Union Youth Affairs and Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar courted controversy when he backed UNAIDS data that says India has the highest number of AIDs cases in the world. India has officially dismissed the UNAIDS figure of 5.7 million, sticking to its own figure of 5.206 million for 2006.
“Though we have more HIV infected patients than any other country, still 99 per cent of Indians are HIV free,” said Aiyar at the launch of the Youth Unite For Victory on AIDS programme. In doing so, he contradicted the claims of health minister Anbumani Ramadoss, who had said he “totally disagreed with the UNAIDS report”.
The UNAIDS 2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic released last month said India had 5.7 million HIV positive people.
Over the past three years, the Indian government has been recording a plateauing in HIV/AIDS figures -- 5.106 million in 2004; 5.134 million in 2005, and 5.206 million in 2006 -- but the government has explained it away as success in containing its spread and the fact that it wasn’t factoring in the people dying of AIDS.
UNAIDS cannot contain its glee. “We are happy that the Indian government is accepting the figure of 5.7 million,” said UNAIDS country representative Denis Braun.
“We had sent the figure of 5.7 million to the minister (Ramadoss) in March. May be he didn’t get time to go through the issue at that time or didn’t realise its importance,” he said.