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AIDS Incidence in India Far Lower Than Previously Estimated New Study

was more carefully surveyed in 2004, he said, its prevalence rate was halved, to 6.7 percent from the 15 percent that Unaids had estimated in 2001. But Dr. Halperin said that AIDS-fighting agencies had such a stake in portraying the epidemic as an approaching Armageddon that they were hesitant to make revisions. Indias survey was finished last year, but Avahan, an AIDS group here financed by the Gates Foundation, refused to discuss the figures before their formal release, which has not been scheduled.

If the total number of cases in the world is half of what youve been saying, thats a bitter pill to swallow, Dr. Halperin said. So every year they lower the numbers a little bit, and retroactively change the estimates of what it used to be. Its sort of Orwellian. In Africa, infection rates range as high as 30 percent. South Africas is about 22 percent, and that figure is considered relatively accurate because the epidemic is older than Indias and population surveys have been done.

In recent years, several prominent figures have accused India of denying the scope of its AIDS problem, but Indian health officials dispute their conclusions. Richard Feacham, until recently the executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said in early 2005, when South Africa was thought to have slightly more cases: The official statistics are wrong. India is in first place. He warned that Indias epidemic could shoot up to African levels, wiping out the surging economy and leaving a nation of orphans.

S. Y. Quraishi, then director of Indias National AIDS Control Organization, took offense, calling such projections technically incorrect and misleading. Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss noted that the country was spending $2 billion to fight the disease and had 75,000 people on free antiretroviral treatment so far, 2,000 centers giving sex education and condoms to sex workers and clients, and 3,600 free testing c
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