India Must Not Become Complacent Despite AIDS Control Program’s Success, Prime Minister Says

“India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday hailed the country’s success in slashing new HIV/AIDS infections by half in the past decade, but warned against complacency,” Agence France-Presse reports.

Speaking at a conference on AIDS in New Delhi, Singh said the country’s HIV prevention program “can justifiably claim a measure of success,” but “there should be no room for complacency,” as an estimated 2.4 million Indians are living with the disease, according to AFP. Approximately “100 people living with HIV protested outside the ministry of health saying efforts were insufficient,” the news service writes (Nair, 7/4).

Indian Health Minister Gulam Nabi Azad “drew attention to the growing need for increasing domestic investments for the AIDS response in the wake of reduced international funding for AIDS,” a UNAIDS feature story writes, adding that “UNAIDS’ estimates show that nearly one third of India’s expenditure is currently funded from domestic sources” (7/4).

Azad on Monday also “derided homosexuality as an unnatural ‘disease’ from the West, drawing outrage Tuesday from activists who said the comments set back the country’s campaign for gay rights and its fight against HIV,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. According to the news service, “the prime minister’s office refused to discuss the Azad’s remarks” (7/5).

Anjali Gopalan, director of the AIDS service organization Naz Foundation, “said on Tuesday that the minister’s remarks were irresponsible,” the Wall Street Journal’s “India Real Time” blog writes. However, “[s]he also suggested that Mr. Azad may have been tailoring his message to a particular audience. It is fairly common for Indian politicians to say different things in different venues, depending on whether they perceive themselves to be at a regional, national or global gathering” (Lahiri, 7/5).

Also at the conference, “UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe called on India to ensure that the use of flexibilities under TRIPS be maintained to ensure that access to affordable and quality medicines is assured in the long term,” UNAIDS reports. India provides first-line antiretroviral therapy free of charge to those in need, and is rolling out second-line ART in a similar program, the news service notes (7/4). 

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