Thursday, June 01, 2006

 

UN report on HIV

UN report on HIV

The Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss today disagreed with a UN report which claimed that an estimated 5.7 million people in India were infected by the HIV virus till 2005. "I am surprised by the UNAIDS report. I totally disagree with it," he said.

The specialised UN agency had said yesterday that the Indian subcontinent is a major area of concern in the global AIDS epidemic, with India alone accounting for two-thirds of HIV cases in the whole of Asia.

The report, released yesterday, said that overall two-thirds of the people living with HIV in Asia are in India and with . 5.7 million estimated to have been infected by the end of last year, India had overtaken South Africa which now has some 5.5 million people living with HIV. But India was much better off as a lower proportion of its population being infected. Only 0.9 per cent of the population was infected against South Africa's 18.8 per cent.

UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot who released the report, rejected the suggestion that India was under reporting cases but stressed it needed to do much more to contain the deadly disease.

The report found that most infections in India were caused by "unprotected heterosexual intercourse" and stressed the need to empower women, not only in India but across world, so that they can say "no" to unprotected sex and develop the capacity to protect themselves. The reports estimated that total deaths in India since AIDS was first identified 25 years ago could range between 270,000 and 680,000.

The report noted that southern States have traditionally been hardest hit by the disease but they have also made more progress in containing it compared to the northern States.

The Impact of HIV/AIDS on Business

Robert M. Clay, director of the Population, Health and Nutrition (PHN) Office at USAID, India. “The snapshot might show a 0.9 per cent prevalence of HIV/AIDS in India today but the movie shows that there are various different scenarios that could unfold in the future.”

Clay, who witnessed the havoc wreaked by HIV/AIDS on Africa during his 5-year assignment as head of the PHN office in Zambia, spoke to BW’s Chitra Narayanan about the possible impact of the virus on Indian businesses. Excerpts:

The HIV/AIDS epidemic in India is not one epidemic but many epidemics throughout the country. It is almost like looking at the entire continent of Africa when you think about what is going on in India. You really need to talk about different states as well as different districts—because there can be very different dynamics. Broadly, in southern India, where you have higher prevalence states, there are more consequences for businesses. Also, with industries that deal with migrant workers or transport workers, the rates are generally higher.

Then there are companies that have a lot of supply workers and they tend to get involved –like Ambuja Cement. They rely on truckers who bring a lot of raw material into the factories and they recognise the need and the business implications of good workplace programmes.

We have been supporting HIV/AIDS programmes since 1995 in India. We have a grant with the Confederation of Indian Industry to increase awareness and supporting the development of HIV/AIDS workplace programmes throughout India. We also have supported workplace programmes in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra through the APCA and AVERT projects. The US Government also supports a grant to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to work with the private sector. In addition, we have also looked at our own workforce at the US Embassy.

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