Times of India 27 May 2001

New Delhi -- In 1998 National AIDS Control Organisation and UNAIDS predicted there were about three to four million HIV positive persons in India.

* In December 1998 a parliamentary standing committee reported there were about 8.5 million identified HIV cases in the country.

* In June 1999 a group of NRI students surveyed parts of India and said there were seven million full-blown AIDS patients and 16 million HIV positive persons.

* In September 1999 UN secretary general said during a UN session there were 8.5 million HIV cases.

* In November 1999 high commissioner to Britain said there were 8.5 million HIV positive persons in India.

And now, NACO, in its latest report Combating HIV/AIDS in India - 1990-2000 says there are about 3.89 million HIV cases in the country. Thus, leaving a big question mark at the sudden decrease in numbers. On how have the number of cases reduced so dramatically - from 8.5 million to 3.89 million? Are the present figures correct or the previous ones?

And if the numbers are exaggerated, who is behind it and what is the purpose? In fact, these were some of the questions a non-governmental organisation Joint Action Council Kannur raised during a press conference on Saturday.

"A false scare of AIDS is being created in the country,'' Purushottaman Mulloli of JACK said. "Perhaps pharmaceutical companies are behind this,'' he alleged.

"Till date there has not been a realistic estimate of the extent of prevalence of the disease. Even the number of deaths reported of AIDS do not indicate a high prevalence,'' he said.

Quoting the answer to a question raised in the parliament in 2000 by MP Prabhu Nath Singh from Bihar, Mulloli said: "In 1997, 257 persons died of AIDS. In the subsequent year about 265 persons died and in 1999 the number of dead came down to 214. So many more people die in our country from other causes. Then why is HIV/AIDS being made to appear as the deadliest of all infections?''

He also questioned the efficacy of Elisa kit used to test HIV. "This kit is completely inaccurate. In fact this kit will show a positive result for 70 other infections. There have been instances when an HIV negative person was tested positive and ostracised from society.''

However, he said that there is a confirmatory test to detect HIV "It is called the Western Blot test but this is hardly used by the agencies carrying out HIV tests. Even a PCR test (Polymerase Chain Reaction) is not reliable for detecting this virus in the blood,'' he said.