The Indian government said Tuesday that it will restore full funding for the country’s HIV-AIDS prevention and control program, months after the Narendra Modi-led administration slashed federal funding for the globally-lauded initiative. India currently has 2.1 million people living with HIV -- the third-largest population of people infected with the virus on the planet, after South Africa and Nigeria -- according to an estimate by Unaids.
“There have been concerns in some quarters about the ability of some of the states to contribute their share to the program. These doubts should now be laid to rest,” India’s Health Minister J.P.Nadda reportedly said Tuesday, while addressing a gathering in New Delhi on the occasion of World AIDS Day.
India’s National AIDS Control Program (NACP) was launched in 1992, and is currently in its fourth phase. In February, the Modi government announced that it will slash federal funding by a fifth, and said that state governments should fill the gap.
However, just months after the announcement, health activists alleged that the states were mismanaging funds, which, in turn, was threatening the supply of free contraceptives -- an initiative crucial in preventing the rise of new infections through unsafe sex, especially among the poor.
“When the new infections start rising, all the good work that has been done will be washed away,” J.V.R. Prasada Rao, U.N. envoy for AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, told Reuters in October, warning that “primitive” management by states could “ruin the program.”
However, despite the recent hiccups, India's AIDS program has won praise globally. It has been credited with reducing AIDS-related deaths to 67,000 in 2015, from over 150,000 in 2007 -- a drop of over 55 percent. And, according to Unaids, 36 percent of Indian adults with the virus have access to antiretroviral treatment -- the third-highest in the world, behind South Africa and the U.S.
“The government of India is very serious on this issue. … I want every child born in this country to be free of AIDS,” Nadda reportedly said.
Government data released Tuesday showed that India recorded 86,000 new HIV infections in 2015 -- a significant drop from 128,000 cases recorded in 2007.
“The estimates show that, while significant progress has been made in halting and reversing the epidemic, challenges still remain to be addressed through joint efforts and with renewed impetus,” N.S. Kang, additional secretary and director general at the National AIDS Control Organization, said, in a statement. “I hope the findings of these new HIV estimations will act as a trigger to initiate discussions on how India can build upon country achievements to fast track progress to end the epidemic.”