AIDS_in_India - AIDS in India Abating, or exploding? Apr...

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Katz AIDS in India Abating, or exploding? Apr 15th 2004 | CHENNAI From The Economist print edition India's HIV epidemic is at a critical stage. If it is not brought under control soon, it may grow to African proportions Get article background INDIA'S first cases of HIV infection occurred among prostitutes in Chennai back in 1986, when the city was still known as Madras. That was two years after HIV was first reported in Thailand, where a large proportion of men habitually used prostitutes and habitually did not use condoms. A few years later, over a quarter of young men and a tenth of pregnant women in some Thai provinces were infected. The outlook for Thailand was bleak. But by then it had launched an anti- AIDS campaign. It worked: by 2020 the country should be close to HIV-free. The Thais adopted six policies in particular: evaluation and monitoring of the outbreak; a concentration of effort on high-risk groups; general education about HIV and AIDS, combined with a “100% condom-use programme” and a campaign to dispel the stigma associated with the disease; collaboration among as many people as possible on all fronts; international support; and political will. India, of course, is not Thailand. For a start, Thailand is much richer (its GDP per person in 2001 was $6,400, whereas India's was $2,840). Thailand is also much smaller than India, making a national campaign much easier to conduct. Lastly, the Thais have long been relatively relaxed about sexual mores, and by 1990 had become accustomed to treating condoms as casually as soap or toothpaste. On the other hand, India has had at least ten years in which to see how AIDS can ravage an entire continent, decimate populations and set development back decades. It should know both what to do and what not to do. So
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how does it measure up? Much better than a year ago, you will be told by those directing the battle from the capital, Delhi. One big departure was the convening of a parliamentary forum last July, attended by elected officials of all parties from all over India. It involved representatives high and low, from the prime minister down to the presidents of some panchayats , the lowest units of local government. Although at the time it seemed to produce little more than words, it gave much-needed encouragement to the efforts that had hitherto been conducted in a political vacuum or, some would say, in the face of outright official hostility. In any event, the forum was followed in November by an announcement that the government would, from April 1st 2004, start to provide free anti-retroviral drugs to a limited number of AIDS sufferers, welcome both in itself as a life-extender for the beneficiaries and as a signal to others that such people were not outcasts. This was strengthened by a promise to bring in anti-discrimination laws. Then came the statement—yet to be translated into action—that the government would start to spend taxpayers' money on AIDS. So far, almost everything spent on combating the disease has come from international agencies,
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AIDS_in_India - AIDS in India Abating, or exploding? Apr...

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