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U.N. Official Doubts India On AIDS Data

The number of new H.I.V. cases in India is probably much higher than official data shows, the director of the United Nations AIDS program says.//

India, which has 5.1 million people with AIDS or H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS on record, announced earlier in 2005 that new infections had sharply fallen to 28,000 in 2004, down from 520,000 in 2003.

International aid groups have expressed skepticism about those figures. Peter Piot, the executive director of United Nations AIDS program said in an interview that he also questioned the figures.

"India having only 28,000 new infections is plainly impossible," Mr. Piot said. With some districts across the country with populations of several million having about 4 percent or more of infected adults, such a sharp decrease in the number of new cases would be nothing short of a miracle.

He attributed this to weak reporting of cases in certain states. India’s two most populous states, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which had a combined population of over 250 million, had poor reporting practices. "We don't know exactly what is going on there," Mr. Piot said.

The state-run National AIDS Control Organization says that less than 1 percent of the country's adult population is infected with H.I.V. and that there are six states, and possibly a seventh, with a infection rate of more than 1 percent.

The spread of H.I.V. has been accelerated by millions of job-seeking migrants to cities, where many are infected after having unprotected sex with sex workers. The men then pass on the virus to their wives.

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