AIDS Crisis in India

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The following was written after consultation meetings with NGOs in Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi and Manipur, March 1997, including visits to the sick and dying in rural areas and discussions with commercial sex workers.

India is about to be hit by the world's worst AIDS epidemic, as a country of almost a billion people. Soon there could be more people infected there with HIV than in the whole of Africa today, more cases perhaps by 2005 than the whole world has today. While many industrialised nations have chosen to ignore the devastation in Africa, the unfolding catastrophe in the Far East is already touching many other nations. It will have an obvious and significant effect on the world economy, threatening tiger economies and discouraging investment, with a heavy toll on the health of the workforce.


  • 800 every night infected in Bombay alone
  • 46% of general population in Bombay carry an active sexually transmitted disease (the greatest risk factor for HIV spread)
  • Level of HIV infection in Bombay among STD clinic attendees rose from 4% in 1990 to 36% in 1994
  • Level of HIV currently 2.5% across the city
  • Similar urban infection levels and risk factors in other developing countries have led in almost every case to city-wide rates of 15-20% or more of all sexually active adults
  • Compared to countries like Uganda in 1988 (similar stage) there seems far less urgency in the official response
  • AIDS ward in Calcutta paid for by World Bank is padlocked because no doctors and nurses can be found in the city to care for those with AIDS
  • In May a woman and her baby testing positive for HIV were thrown out of a government hospital
  • In another hospital those with AIDS have their beds marked with a large cross
  • Near the Burmese border there are reports that some drug users testing positive have been shot
  • India already has more HIV cases than any other nation
  • World epidemic spreads unchecked with 1 new infection every 15 seconds - almost entirely in the poorest nations

ACET International has been seeking to encourage the formation of CANA, a new national coalition of key agencies in a major drive targeting community prevention and community care.

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