INDIA'S AIDS FIGURES JUST DON'T ADD UP
Times of India 22 June 2001
New Delhi -- A controversy is brewing over the number of AIDS-related
deaths in India. The National Aids Control Organisation puts the figure
at about 17,000.
But UNAIDS, the joint United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS, said in a
fact sheet to be presented at the UN General Assembly special session in
New York from June 25 to 27, that there were 5.6 lakh children orphaned
due to the disease. In effect, this means more than 11 lakh people have
died so far in the country.
The discrepancy came to light during a press conference hosted by UNAIDS
to launch a report on HIV/AIDS on Thursday whereupon a furore broke out
When questioned on this mismatch in figures, UNAIDS country programme
advisor David Miller refused to comment. He said, "The figure in the
fact sheet is just an estimate. I do not want to be drawn in the
controversy at this stage."
Asked what the source of the estimate was, he said, "I cannot disclose
the source. I will have to speak to my colleagues in Geneva about it."
Throughout the country, the AIDS surveillance and data collection on
AIV/AIDS figures is being handled solely by NACO. NACO chief J V R
Prasada Rao said there were no estimates on the number of AIDS orphans
Later in the day, a UNAIDS statement faxed to this newspaper office said
the number of orphans given in the fact sheet due to an oversight. It
also said NACO and UNAIDS were currently in the process of estimating
figures for HIV/AIDS orphans which should finish by the end of this
Union health and family welfare minister C P Thakur said the government
did not have the resources to provide anti-retroviral drugs for HIV
treatment for free. He said, "Very soon to prevent transmission from
mother to child, AZT therapy will be a part of our national agenda.''
At the moment, only a few centres in the country give the AZT therapy to
prevent an HIV positive pregnant woman from passing the virus on to her
According to NACO, about one per cent of pregnant women attending
ante-natal clinics in south India were found to be HIV positive,
indicating a "generalized epidemic.''
In the rest of the world, as per the UNAIDS report, about 36.1 million
people were living with HIV and about 21.8 million people had died of it