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India Prepares to Map Out AIDS Strategy - 2003-07-25


India holds its first national convention on AIDS Saturday and Sunday, bringing together politicians from all parties to try to map out a strategy for fighting the disease.

More than 1,000 political leaders and elected officials from all parties and all echelons of government will be meeting in New Delhi to talk about a common agenda: allocation of resources and legislation to fight AIDS.

The head of the U.N. AIDS office says India must wake up to the potential AIDS nightmare it faces.

More than four million people in India have the HIV virus that causes AIDS; nearly as many as South Africa, which has the largest number of HIV/AIDS sufferers in the world. The numbers in India are growing steadily, and experts warn that with a population pool of over one billion, the results could be catastrophic.

AIDS has been a "hidden" disease in India and other parts of south and east Asia, not openly talked about and not receiving the governmental attention and funding necessary to properly fight it.

Experts hope that is changing. Some say the recent outbreak of the SARS epidemic in Asia may have helped raise awareness that governments must confront these diseases openly and aggressively.

They say there may be a growing realization that without such action an epidemic can seriously affect the economy and stability of a country.

U.N. officials say they hope the conference in India might serve as an example for other Asian nations to take similar steps to confront AIDS.

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