An HIV/AIDS epidemic may kill 11 million people in India over the next 20 years, the Times of India reported on Wednesday, citing official census figures.
Along with the 5 million children not born to women who died young because of the virus, India’s forecast 2026 population of 1.4 billion would be trimmed by 1.2 percent, the paper reported.
The United Nations AIDS agency (UNAIDS) says that 5.7 million Indians live with the HIV virus, and that India has the world’s highest caseload, overtaking South Africa earlier this year.
“If we do not stop it (the AIDS epidemic) now, the fate of South Africa will overtake us,” India’s minister for local self-government, Mani Shankar Aiyar, told a meeting of rural politicians on Wednesday.
More than one of every nine South Africans in a population of 45 million are HIV-positive.
Indian officials have not accepted the UNAIDS figure for India and continue to cite the Health Ministry’s number of 5.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS.
But anti-AIDS groups say the real figure is higher as the stigma attached to the disease prevents some people from reporting their status. Other deaths are not recorded as HIV-related in medical records.
On Wednesday, government officials announced plans to rope in thousands of rural politicians to spread the anti-AIDS message in the countryside, where more than 60 percent of Indians live.
Revision date: June 11, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.