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India has the 2nd most cases of AIDS in the world

December 01, 2006
AIDS is one of the most destructive diseases in human history.

It has already killed 25 million people and infected 40 million more worldwide. 4.3 million people have been infected by AIDS this year alone.

As World AIDS Day is commemorated on December 1, it is time for a reality check. Contrary to what researchers had thought ten years ago -- that AIDS cases would decline -- the epidemic is on the rise.

In the next 25 years, AIDS is set to join heart disease and strokes as the top three causes of deaths worldwide; it is likely to claim 120 million lives.

India, the World Health Organisation estimates, has the second largest population of people living with HIV/AIDS, after South Africa.

India's National AIDS Control Organisation estimates that 124,995 Indians have AIDS. But UNAIDS puts the figure much higher -- it says 5,700,000 Indians have AIDS.

Speaking at an Asia Society discussion on AIDS in India in March, Sujata Rao, director general, National AIDS Control Organisation, appeared to concur with the UNAIDS estimate. "We lost 500,000 people to AIDS last year," she said. "There are 5.2 million HIV infected people in India."

Image: People with HIV/AIDS from around the country protest at the start of a three-day demonstration in New Delhi, November 29, 2006, to demand that the Government of India provide new AIDS drugs (second line treatment) to those who need it. Some 200 protesters called attention to the fact that under the government's free AIDS treatment programmes, people living with HIV/AIDS cannot get new or improved drugs that can make a critical difference in saving their lives.

Photograph: Raveendran/AFP/Getty Images
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