NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 2, 2006

India has surpassed South Africa as the country with the largest number of people infected with HIV/AIDS, underscoring the growing impact the disease is having on the South Asian subcontinent, says Marilyn Chase of the Wall Street Journal.

India's estimated total of 5.7 million infected people narrowly exceeds South Africa's estimated 5.5 million, but the center of the disease still remains in sub-Saharan Africa, says Chase.

According to the United Nations' 2006 report on the global AIDS epidemic:

  • African countries south of the Sahara have about 25 million cases; among South Africans ages 15 to 49, the infection rate is 18.8 percent.
  • Despite stabilizing or subsiding HIV rates in parts of Eastern Africa, Southern African countries have made little or no progress in reversing the epidemic.
  • India's epidemic is thinly spread among its 1.1 billion people, for an adult infection rate that remains under one percent at 0.9 percent.
  • That estimated rate is slightly higher than the rate of infection in the United States, which is about 0.6 percent of the adult population.
  • Four southern Indian states have achieved a declining rate of new infections in young people, but in northern India, the disease is spreading rapidly among intravenous drug users.

The current administration in New Delhi has more openly acknowledged the problems posed by HIV/AIDS and increased its funding and programs somewhat, but the disease's spread could complicate India's efforts to establish itself as a large industrial power, says Chase.

Moreover, it illustrates the high stakes for businesses in the United States and other nations as they become increasingly intertwined with the Indian economy, says Chase.

Source: Marilyn Chase, "India Surpasses South Africa As Nation With Most HIV Cases," Wall Street Journal, May 31, 2006; based upon: UNAIDS, "2006 Report on the global AIDS epidemic," UNAIDS, May 2006

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