Richard Feachem, executive director of the United Nations-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, is expected to ask health and government leaders in India to step up their efforts to fight the spread of HIV "to prevent a catastrophe," the Hindustan Times reports. Due to recent revisions in calculations of the number of HIV-positive people worldwide, India has now surpassed South Africa as home to the most HIV-positive people in the world, with more than 5 million people infected with the virus.
Feachem is beginning a five-day tour of India on September 15 and will meet with the nation's prime minister, finance minister, and health minister to discuss the seriousness of the AIDS epidemic in the country of more than 1 billion people. He also is expected to urge the nation's companies to do more to educate their workers about HIV risks and to provide antiretroviral treatment to those who are HIV-positive.
Health experts say if India doesn't take immediate steps to slow the spread of HIV in the country, it could be facing 5.5 million new HIV infections each year by 2033. The global fund has already allocated $413 million to India for HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria programs. India is not one of the countries eligible for $15 billion in U.S. AIDS funds through the five-year President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief aimed at combating the disease in developing nations.