Thursday, December 29, 2005


November 12th 2002 ( Message 133)

Reproduced below is an article by "Bill Gates", that appeared in Asian Age today.

Till a few years ago, I used to work for an Indian pharmaceutical companies that marketed HIV detection kits. If was frustrating to see the lack of awareness and efforts to stem the problem. Things have gone from bad to worse over these years. If you want a realistic estimate of the affected population, multiply the 'official' numbers mentioned in the article below by 2. Further, multiply this number by at least 4 to estimate the number of family members who would be going through the trauma (not to speak of transimssion of the disease itself).

Organisations such as NACO and many others have done a lot over the past few years ... companies like Cipla have contributed by making the drugs available at affordable prices (patent related controversies notwithstanding)... yet a lot needs to be done...and it needs to be done before it is too late.



India is well on its way to becoming a global superpower. Its economy has significantly outpaced much of Asia in recent years, its internationally competitive information technology and pharmaceutical industries are projected to grow dramatically this decade, and the country's purchasing power is the fourth largest
in the world after United States, China and Japan.

But much of this progress will be threatened by AIDS. India already has atleast 4 million people living with HIV and the United States National Intelligence Council predicts that the number of people infected in India could jump to between
20 million and 25 million by 2010.

There is still time, however, to prevent a widespread AIDS epidemic in India. HIV infection rates are low - less than 1 percent of the adult population is infected. Having failed to prevent enormous human suffering already experienced in
Africa, the international community has an opportunity to support India's efforts to stem its AIDS crisis before it is too late.

The humanitarian imperative for action is undeniable. But there are other reasons for west to be concerened about India's future. It is the world's largest democracy and a crucial ally in an unstable region. With one of the largest scientific and technical workforce, it is also an important business partner for many countries.

India's leaders are well aware of the risks AIDS poses - they are begining to speak out, breaking powerful and long-standing taboos about discussing sex, drug abuse and this disease. The prevention efforts being made here are already starting to
show measurable results. In fact, with its vast human resources and burgeoning pharmaceutical industry, India may be best positioned to contain the epidemic and offer global leadership in confronting AIDS. By vigorously pursuing HIV prevention, and by marshalling its impressive scientific research sector to develop vaccines, microbicides and treatments that could help stop the epidemic worldwide, India can make a significant contribution well beyond its borders.

Over the years, I have developed close professional and personal ties to India. India's rapidly growing software sector has made the country a critical partner to many American companies, including Microsoft. India's teachers, scientists and business professionals are laying the foundations doe extraordinary economic and social change that would be threatened by AIDS.

Much more needs to be done now to reach the populations that fuel the spread of the disease in India. For example, mobile populations - truckers, soldiers and migrant labourers- have HIV rates upto 10 times greater than the national average and serve as a bridge from high risk groups to the general population. Other nations
- including senegal, Thailand and Brazil have demonstrated that HIV can be reduced, sometimes substantially, through programs that reach those most at risk.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is in India to make a long-term commitment to Indian partners for a major new prevention initiative aimed at mobile populations. The initiative will focus on proven prevention strategies such as voluntary
counselling and testing, condom distribution, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases as well as public education programs to reduce the fear and stigma of AIDS alone. Wealthy nations, businesses and philanthropic world must contribute to efforts
to contain India's AIDS crisis before it expands. Far greater resources and expertise must be devoted to prevention programs, training healthcare workers and supporting research into new medical advancements.

We know how to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS. The choice now is clear and stark:

India can either be the home of the world's largest democracy and the most devastating AIDS epidemic - or, with the support of rest of the world, it can become the best example of how aids virus can be defeated.