India offers free anti-Aids drugs

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30 June 2006

Some 100,000 Indians with HIV will be provided free anti-retroviral drugs by early 2007, Indian officials say.
The drugs are being made available under a programme which began in 2004 and has already treated 35,000 people.

By August the drug will be made available to another 50,000 affected people and a further 15,000 by the beginning of 2007, officials say.

Delhi disputes UN estimates that 5.7m Indians are infected by the HIV virus, more than anywhere else in the world.

The head of India's National Aids Control Organisation (Naco), Sujata Rao, said India's records showed that 5.2m people in the country were infected with HIV.

The figure was based on surveys of people between the ages of 15-49.

Ms Rao said UN estimates were based on "different methodology" because the UN surveys had included the entire population for the first time.

"We will study their assumptions," Ms Rao said.

She said India's Aids control programme was focusing on increasing awareness of the disease among students and through the media, and how to prevent it.

"Once people know that Aids is treatable, although not curable, it will reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with the disease," she said.
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