Feature story

Michel Sidibé urges India to continue AIDS effort

06 October 2009

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe with Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Mr Dinesh Trivedi.
Photo: UNAIDS India

In his first visit to India as Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé has held a series of meetings with the Government in which he emphasized the role of political leadership to ensure that the country’s universal access goals to HIV prevention, care and treatment are achieved in India by 2010.

In Delhi, Mr Sidibé congratulated the Indian government for the progress made in the HIV response. He spoke in a meeting with Ms K. Sujatha Rao, Health Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, praising the results achieved by the Ministry and the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) in expanding access to HIV treatment beyond the targets set by the country, as well as the implementation of targeted programmes which are having a positive impact on HIV transmission rates.

The UNAIDS Head also expressed his support for the recent decision of a Delhi court to annul Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalised homosexuality in India. The historic decision is a breakthrough for rights groups in India and strengthens the NACO’s efforts to reach out to the people at higher risk of HIV, like men who have sex with men and transgendered people.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe with Ms. K. Sujatha Rao, Health Secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare
Photo: UNAIDS India

Meeting with Mr Dinesh Trivedi, Minister of State for Health, Mr Sidibé urged him to guard against complacency towards HIV response in the face of other emerging challenges such as H1N1 and climate change-related health issues. He appealed for India to strengthen its role in the UNAIDS programme coordinating body and become a donor to UNAIDS in view of the country’s increased political and economic status in the world community.

Mr Sidibé will hold a series of meetings with other State officials this week as well as with civil society and private sector representatives.

The epidemic in India

There are an estimated 2.4 million people living with HIV in India, the highest in any country in Asia. For every 100 people living with HIV in India, 61 are men and 39 women; prevalence is also high in the 15-49 age group.

The epidemic, like in most of Asia, is concentrated among key populations at higher risk of HIV. Currently, six states are classified with having a high HIV prevalence – Maharashtra in the west, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in the south, and Manipur and Nagaland in the northeast. According to recent data, new pockets of concern are now emerging in North India as well.

The independent Commission on AIDS in Asia has noted that India has significantly increased domestic spending on HIV in recent years, accounting for nearly 50% of the country’s total AIDS budget. Mr Sidibé’s visit to India will continue in the coming days and will events in Mumbai and Bangalore.