India can tackle AIDS if it wants: UNAIDS chief | india | Hindustan Times
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India can tackle AIDS if it wants: UNAIDS chief

Peter Piot, Executive Director, UNAIDS

india Updated: Nov 30, 2005 00:10 IST

Peter Piot, Executive Director, UNAIDS, who leads the worldwide UN programme to tackle the disease, on how India and other parts of the world are coping with the unprecedented challenges.

UNAIDS goes by government of India figures. Many independent NGOs claim the figures are fudged as they do not take into account the large number deaths on account of many other diseases such as Tuberculosis caused by AIDS. What are your views on this?

In 2002, a core group of experts, including the Indian Council of Medical research, NACO, UNAIDS and WHO reviewed the procedures and data used for producing AIDS estimates. When the 2002 estimate for people living with HIV/AIDS in India was published in August this year, it was decided that for the first time India should present a range instead of a point estimate. The range is more scientific and better reflects the AIDS situation in the country. The Indian figures are in line with UNAIDS' estimates.

How has the Indian government responded to calls of alarm in the sub
continent?

I believe we are witnessing a seachange in India's response to the epidemic. Earlier this year, UNAIDS collaborated with the Indian Parliamentary Forum on HIV/AIDS to bring together over 2000 parliamentarians from around the country to discuss how best to tackle the burgeoning threat of AIDS in India. This was unprecedented - I have not seen a similar meeting being held in any other country. Both the Prime Minister and leading opposition figures spoke at the meeting. We also see the business community waking up to the threat posed by AIDS to its workforce and customer-base. India's NACO has launched a multi-sectoral campaign against AIDS which includes prevention and care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS. These are very promising signs - much more is needed - but India has a unique opportunity, if it acts now, to prevent a widescale epidemic.