Africa struggles to spend AIDS billions

March 28, 2006

WELAMASONGA, Tanzania (Reuters) – With billions of dollars pouring in to fight Africa’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, Tanzanian AIDS counselor Gandencia Bazil has a simple request.

“We need a bicycle,” said Bazil, who heads the AIDS committee in this village near Lake Victoria, an area where an estimated 12 percent of people are infected with HIV.

“With a bicycle we could reach more people with health messages. But we cannot afford even that,” said Bazil, as other members of her committee nodded grimly following a meeting in a makeshift shelter near the village center.

“We are not getting the support we need.”

Welamasonga’s predicament is repeated across Africa, where despite a huge jump in overseas assistance and government AIDS budgets, the cash earmarked to fight the epidemic is often not making it to the desperate people who need it most.

In Mozambique, officials say only a fraction of some 70,000 children eligible for AIDS drug treatment will get it this year because of a shortage of trained doctors and nurses.

In badly hit South Africa, health departments report being unable to spend their AIDS budgets, while in Nigeria inefficient bureaucracy has been blamed for missed treatment targets and questionable data.

Aid agency officials agree that the surge in AIDS spending has created bottlenecks, with fragile healthcare systems, disorganized government departments and fledgling community groups often ill-prepared to absorb the money flowing in.

The scale of the AIDS crisis in Africa — where some 26 million people are infected with HIV, more than 2 million died of AIDS in 2005 and well over 12 million children have lost one or both parents to the disease — still dwarfs the assistance being made available.

Nevertheless, both governments and United Nations’ agencies, which spent years fighting to raise AIDS funding, are now battling to develop new strategies to spend it.

“We all need to begin thinking out of the box,” Peter Piot, executive director of the United Nations’ AIDS agency UNAIDS, said during a recent inspection trip to Tanzania where he was often asked why cash was not reaching grassroots groups.

“Stopping the AIDS epidemic is going to require more than just a medical approach.”

HALTING PROGRESS

Worldwide AIDS funding has jumped from $250 million in 1995 to more than $8 billion in 2005. UNAIDS says that will have to rise to $22 billion by 2008 if the HIV/AIDS disaster is to be contained.

The money has already had a major effect in Africa, and in the past two years is largely responsible for boosting the number of people receiving life-prolonging anti-retroviral (ARV) drug medication, often for free.

But officials say that despite the progress, only about 10 percent of Africans who need the ARVs are getting them, while other services, including help for AIDS orphans, are often equally limited.

Tanzania, for example, began offering free ARVs in 2004 and ramped up delivery to cover 22,000 people by December 2005 from just 2,000 at the beginning of the year.

But with an estimated 400,000 Tanzanians needing ARVs now, and about 2 million infected with the HIV virus, the task is to expand drug delivery while developing programs to address other issues ranging from legal help for AIDS orphans to food assistance for struggling families.

Hawa Bayona, a 50-year-old lawyer in Dar es Salaam who fell sick with HIV in 2001, is an example of the expanding challenge as Africa’s AIDS epidemic enters its third decade.

While she has enrolled in the government ARV program — keeping her alive — Bayona says her savings have been wiped out by hospital stays. Her landlord closed her law office for overdue rent and her clients drifted away, unsure if she would live long enough to see their cases through.

“Sometimes you just wonder what the next day will bring,” the frail woman said, sitting in a Dar es Salaam health clinic.

“I get the drugs, but they don’t cover any of my other problems with this sickness. I don’t know where to get money, or where to get food. I can only hope that God will provide.”

HOLISTIC APPROACH?

Like many HIV-positive Tanzanians, Bayona had angry words for TACAIDS, Tanzania’s official AIDS control organization and a key link between foreign donors and local AIDS groups.

“They spend a lot of money, but we don’t see any of it,” she said. “The program is only interested in ARVs, workshops and seminars. Officials get cars, we don’t get anything.”

TACAIDS’ information chief Fatma Mwassa conceded Tanzania was finding it was hard to spend its AIDS money, but said the problem was due to donor requirements limiting the types of expenditures and groups which can receive AIDS grants.

“We don’t have enough capacity in Tanzania,” Mwassa said. “We are trying to switch to a more holistic approach, not only medical, but it will take time.”

Piot said the disconnect between how AIDS funding is structured and basic needs like free HIV tests or bicycles for health workers was a growing concern.

“It is hard to make the machine work,” he said. “Donors say you can’t buy things like bicycles. They see that as leakage,” he said. “We see this in many, many countries. These bottlenecks are everywhere.”

Bayona, whose two brothers are also HIV-positive and who supports more than a dozen dependents, said she worried that for many Africans the bottlenecks could prove deadly.

“In Tanzania, everything is at a standstill and we are dying,” she said. “We are standing on quicksand, but it doesn’t seem anybody knows how to help.”

By Andrew Quinn

- Reuters Health

(For more information about emergency relief visit Reuters AlertNet http://www.alertnet.org email: alertnet@reuters.com; +44 207 542 5791)

Africa struggles to spend AIDS billions

March 28, 2006

With billions of dollars pouring in to fight Africa’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, Tanzanian AIDS counselor Gandencia Bazil has a simple request.”We need a bicycle,” said Bazil, who heads the AIDS committee in this village near Lake Victoria, an area where an estimated 12 percent of people are infected with HIV.

“With a bicycle we could reach more people with health messages. But we cannot afford even that,” said Bazil, as other members of her committee nodded grimly following a meeting in a makeshift shelter near the village center.

“We are not getting the support we need.”

Welamasonga’s predicament is repeated across Africa, where despite a huge jump in overseas assistance and government AIDS budgets, the cash earmarked to fight the epidemic is often not making it to the desperate people who need it most.

In Mozambique, officials say only a fraction of some 70,000 children eligible for AIDS drug treatment will get it this year because of a shortage of trained doctors and nurses.

In badly hit South Africa, health departments report being unable to spend their AIDS budgets, while in Nigeria inefficient bureaucracy has been blamed for missed treatment targets and questionable data.

Aid agency officials agree that the surge in AIDS spending has created bottlenecks, with fragile healthcare systems, disorganized government departments and fledgling community groups often ill-prepared to absorb the money flowing in.

The scale of the AIDS crisis in Africa — where some 26 million people are infected with HIV, more than 2 million died of AIDS in 2005 and well over 12 million children have lost one or both parents to the disease — still dwarfs the assistance being made available.

Nevertheless, both governments and United Nations’ agencies, which spent years fighting to raise AIDS funding, are now battling to develop new strategies to spend it.

“We all need to begin thinking out of the box,” Peter Piot, executive director of the United Nations’ AIDS agency UNAIDS, said during a recent inspection trip to Tanzania where he was often asked why cash was not reaching grassroots groups.

“Stopping the AIDS epidemic is going to require more than just a medical approach.”

HALTING PROGRESS

Worldwide AIDS funding has jumped from $250 million in 1995 to more than $8 billion in 2005. UNAIDS says that will have to rise to $22 billion by 2008 if the HIV/AIDS disaster is to be contained.

The money has already had a major effect in Africa, and in the past two years is largely responsible for boosting the number of people receiving life-prolonging anti-retroviral (ARV) drug medication, often for free.

But officials say that despite the progress, only about 10 percent of Africans who need the ARVs are getting them, while other services, including help for AIDS orphans, are often equally limited.

Tanzania, for example, began offering free ARVs in 2004 and ramped up delivery to cover 22,000 people by December 2005 from just 2,000 at the beginning of the year.

But with an estimated 400,000 Tanzanians needing ARVs now, and about 2 million infected with the HIV virus, the task is to expand drug delivery while developing programs to address other issues ranging from legal help for AIDS orphans to food assistance for struggling families.

Hawa Bayona, a 50-year-old lawyer in Dar es Salaam who fell sick with HIV in 2001, is an example of the expanding challenge as Africa’s AIDS epidemic enters its third decade.

While she has enrolled in the government ARV program — keeping her alive — Bayona says her savings have been wiped out by hospital stays. Her landlord closed her law office for overdue rent and her clients drifted away, unsure if she would live long enough to see their cases through.

“Sometimes you just wonder what the next day will bring,” the frail woman said, sitting in a Dar es Salaam health clinic.

“I get the drugs, but they don’t cover any of my other problems with this sickness. I don’t know where to get money, or where to get food. I can only hope that God will provide.”

HOLISTIC APPROACH?

Like many HIV-positive Tanzanians, Bayona had angry words for TACAIDS, Tanzania’s official AIDS control organization and a key link between foreign donors and local AIDS groups.

“They spend a lot of money, but we don’t see any of it,” she said. “The program is only interested in ARVs, workshops and seminars. Officials get cars, we don’t get anything.”

TACAIDS’ information chief Fatma Mwassa conceded Tanzania was finding it was hard to spend its AIDS money, but said the problem was due to donor requirements limiting the types of expenditures and groups which can receive AIDS grants.

“We don’t have enough capacity in Tanzania,” Mwassa said. “We are trying to switch to a more holistic approach, not only medical, but it will take time.”

Piot said the disconnect between how AIDS funding is structured and basic needs like free HIV tests or bicycles for health workers was a growing concern.

“It is hard to make the machine work,” he said. “Donors say you can’t buy things like bicycles. They see that as leakage,” he said. “We see this in many, many countries. These bottlenecks are everywhere.”

Bayona, whose two brothers are also HIV-positive and who supports more than a dozen dependents, said she worried that for many Africans the bottlenecks could prove deadly.

“In Tanzania, everything is at a standstill and we are dying,” she said. “We are standing on quicksand, but it doesn’t seem anybody knows how to help.”

(For more information about emergency relief visit Reuters AlertNet http://www.alertnet.org email: alertnet@reuters.com; +44 207 542 5791)

- Andrew Quinn

Reuters Health

Air ticket tax to fight AIDS – Jacques Chirac

February 28, 2006

President Jacques Chirac urged rich states on Tuesday to follow France’s lead and adopt a one-euro levy on plane tickets to help poor countries buy drugs they need to fight AIDS and other killer diseases.Chirac said the surcharge would help spread the benefits of globalization to people living on less than a euro a day, a level of poverty that prevents those hardest hit by malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis from receiving treatment.

At the start of the two-day international conference on finding new ways to fund development, Britain and France announced a joint study on funding education and health through the airline ticket levy, a decision welcomed by some aid groups.

Chirac, who championed the levy in the face of widespread initial skepticism and opposition from airline companies, praised developing countries that were considering imposing a similar charge.

“I call on all nations represented here today in Paris, first and foremost OECD and European Union countries, to support them in this forward-looking undertaking,” Chirac said in an opening ceremony at his official Elysee Palace residence.

From July 1, a French law will levy one euro on domestic and European flights and 4 euros on long-haul flights. Business and first class travelers will be charged an extra 10 euros, rising to 40 euros on international flights.

Airlines already concerned about spiraling fuel costs have been wary of the idea, which has run into opposition from the United States and EU tourist destinations like Italy and Greece.

The French levy, expected to raise 200 million euros ($238 million) in a full year, will be held by the French development agency pending agreement on how to dole out the funds.

PIONEER GROUP

Officials said they hoped a pioneer group of around a dozen states would sign up to the scheme by the end of the conference and work out a drugs purchasing mechanism for countries in need.

Chirac proposed an international drug purchase facility, which French officials say would provide stable, long-term funding for anti-retroviral drugs used to fight the HIV virus.

Officials said details of how the system would work remain to be thrashed out but they hope that it will eventually encourage pharmaceutical firms and makers of generic drugs to increase production, stimulate competition and so lower prices. U.N. estimates say some $200 billion a year will be needed in official development aid by 2015 to meet the so-called Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of halving world poverty.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan told the conference that the air travel levy must be used to provide extra funds and not replace money from state budgets.

“It would be too optimistic to think that innovative sources of financing alone will generate enough funding to reach the MDGs,” Annan said.

“And even if we reach the goals, there would still be a vast backlog of human deprivation, and we would need a longer-term strategy for financing the complete eradication of poverty.”

He urged states to join France in the international drug purchase facility, an agreement on which he hoped could be won by the end of May when the United Nations General Assembly meets on the HIV/AIDS fight.

Research needed on AIDS deaths – Thabo Mbeki

February 27, 2006

South African President Thabo Mbeki said in a newspaper interview on Sunday that research needed to be done to determine what impact HIV/AIDS was having on the country’s public sector.”We need to do some research to say what the level of deaths is in the public service as a result of natural and non-natural causes,” Mbeki was quoted as saying in the interview with the City Press newspaper.

“… no one has sounded the alarm where I work daily in the Presidency and nobody has said there is a particularly alarming tendency of people dying,” he said.

Mbeki has been criticised in the past for playing down the extent of South Africa’s AIDS pandemic and seldom makes public comments on the issue.

An estimated 5 million South Africans, or one in nine of the population, are HIV positive. Many analysts have said the pandemic is devastating the country’s working-age population and corroding the social fabric of the nation.

The City Press said Mbeki was questioning a study by the state-funded Human Sciences Research Council, which the newspaper said showed that a minimum of 10,000 teachers living with AIDS needed urgent treatment with anti-retroviral drugs.

Schools teach survival to Africa’s AIDS orphans

February 24, 2006

Dreaming of leafy spinach and rows of juicy beetroot, 13-year-old Cinisile Mamba yanks withered weeds from the ground and prepares to plant.Life has not been kind to Mamba. Her parents died of AIDS before passing on crucial farming skills, leaving her to care for three younger siblings in a country ravaged by five years of drought.

“I want to grow spinach and beetroot to feed my brother and sisters but I don’t know how,” she told Reuters not far from her simple hut in Swaziland’s parched lowlands.

This year she might just harvest the vegetables she craves.

Along with 24 other children from her community, Mamba is attending a United Nations farm school which teaches those orphaned by AIDS the basic skills of survival — skills their parents were unable to pass on.

“As parents die early they are leaving a knowledge gap,” said Khumbi Chinonge, who heads the farm school project. “How will these children continue if they can’t grow food and take care of themselves?”

Swaziland has the world’s highest rate of HIV/AIDS, which is killing key workers and whittling away the tiny country’s capacity to deal with a drought that has left some 10 to 12 million people in southern Africa dependent on food aid.

Around a quarter of Swaziland’s 1 million people rely on the United Nations’ World Food Programme and many families in Sithobela eat just one basic meal of corn or rice a day.

LAND PESTS, LIFE PESTS

The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched the junior farmer field and life schools in Mozambique in 2003 and has since opened schools in Kenya, Namibia and Zambia, targeting some 1,000 young people between the ages of 12 and 18.

FAO has now launched the first phase of the project in Swaziland, starting with five sites but with plans to eventually reach 30,000 orphans at 1,250 schools.

Official figures put the number of AIDS orphans in Swaziland at 80,000 although aid workers say the figure is probably closer to 100,000.

The chief and elders of the Sihlangwini community in Sithobela have given Mamba and her fellow pupils a field to use for their studies and picked the community’s best farmer to teach them how to coax food from the rain-starved soil.

Phineas Magagula was the only farmer in the area to produce a decent maize crop this year after he created a makeshift irrigation system with 4 km (2.5 miles) of rubber tubing.

“I am famous for my farming skills so I was chosen to teach the children,” he said with a grin.

The programme combines farming skills with lessons on personal hygiene, money management and, crucially, about the dangers of HIV in a country where some 40 percent of adults are infected with the virus that causes AIDS.

“When we teach about getting rid of pests that destroy crops we also teach about pests — like HIV — that can destroy your life,” said Chinonge.

SIMPLE TIPS

So far the children at Sihlangwini have cleared the land and built fences to keep the bony livestock that roam the area away from their crops. They start planting over the next few weeks.

Magagula said a few simple tips on farming could make the difference between a failed and successful crop, and said he would teach the children how to make the best of the land in an area where almost every stream and river has run dry.

“At the moment people try and grow maize but it is hard to grow — I will teach them to grow sorghum, which is easier, and then vegetables, for better nutrition.”

Mamba, whose skinny arms poke from a torn and grubby T-shirt, says the highlight of her twice-weekly sessions at the farm school is lunch, which is provided free by the WFP.

One of the main aims of the farm school project is to wean children like Mamba — who is entirely dependent on WFP provisions to feed herself, two sisters and one brother — off handouts and help them become self-sufficient.

Chinonge hopes successful pupils will stay longer than the initial year-long course and learn to become commercial farmers, then possibly teachers for future schools.

“It’s an old saying but teaching a man to fish is better than giving him a fish,” he said.

Swaziland’s King Mswati III — sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch — appealed in his state of the kingdom speech this month for donors to give more to help tackle HIV, which analysts fear could threaten the tiny nation’s existence.

Aid workers are loath to criticize the young monarch in public but many say privately that perhaps the king would contribute more to the fight against HIV if he did not insist on wedding a new young bride every year. He now has 13 wives.

Magagula, 42, says that after years of working the land, teaching teenagers about sex came as a shock.

But despite receiving no salary for the twice-weekly classes on farming and health issues, he says passing on this kind of information is vital to save his community.

“We want to help them over the bridge from adolescence to adulthood,” he said.

(For more information about emergency relief visit Reuters AlertNet http://www.alertnet.org email: alertnet@reuters.com; +44 207 542 5791)

- Reuters Health

Circumcision makes comeback in AIDS – hit Swaziland

February 24, 2006

It’s not every day that hordes of men fight to forego their foreskins — especially not in a country where circumcision was banned by a 19th century king.

But in the tiny African kingdom of Swaziland, circumcision is making a comeback after research showed the age-old rite may help stop the spread of HIV. Volunteers eager for the snip almost rioted at an overbooked clinic in the capital last month.

“There was a stampede,” said Dr. Mark Mills, administrator at the Mbabane Clinic. “There is not a family in Swaziland unaffected by HIV and people are desperate … In some countries you have food riots, we nearly had a circumcision riot.”

Swaziland has the world’s highest rate of HIV, with around 40 percent of the adult population believed to be infected with the virus that causes AIDS. Analysts say the pandemic could threaten the existence of this nation of 1 million people.

The reasons are complex: many Swazis work in mines in AIDS-ravaged neighbouring South Africa and polygamy is common. But new studies show circumcision could also play a part.

Circumcision, practised by Jews and Muslims, is common in many African countries either as part of rite-of-passage ceremonies, or in Muslim communities mostly in West Africa.

Swaziland’s King Mswati II banned it in the late 1800s because young men recovering from the surgery were distracted from waging war. The country, wedged between South Africa and Mozambique, has one of the world’s lowest circumcision rates.

Researchers have noted links between high rates of HIV and low rates of male circumcision since the 1980s, but last year the first controlled study in South Africa found circumcised men were around 60 percent less likely to contract HIV.

Circumcision’s benefits may stem from the fact that the foreskin has cells that the virus seems able to easily infect.

The study by French and South African researchers was published in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal — and its findings filtered down to Swazis through newspapers, talk shows and politicians.

MOTHERS PROTECT SONS

The response — which has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with health — has been huge as deeply traditional Swazis discard their cultural heritage in droves.

Mbabane Clinic, a private hospital, is performing some 10 circumcisions a week compared to less than one a month prior to the study. The Family Life Association of Swaziland (FLAS) has two new doctors working full-time to keep up with waiting lists.

In Swaziland, where the majority of people are Christian although indigenous beliefs are often incorporated into their faith, mothers are a key driving force behind the new trend.

Phindile Maseko, a nurse at Mbabane clinic, fears for her 13-year-old son’s future and will do all she can to protect him.

“I decided he needed to do it for safety and for the future. Children are so naughty these days — they start doing these things so young and then they get sick,” she told Reuters at her home in Mbabane. “I want to protect him from all this HIV mess.”

Her son Matshidiso said he was initially terrified but that staying alive was more important than upholding Swazi norms.

“HIV doesn’t come from Swaziland so maybe you need to protect yourself with something that doesn’t come from Swaziland,” he told Reuters a week after the operation.

The United Nations is waiting for more studies before making male circumcision part of its fight against HIV, but the U.N. Children’s Fund and other health officials in Swaziland are already promoting it.

“In countries in crisis … we need to put the information out there,” said Alan Brody, country director for UNICEF.

MIXED MESSAGES?

Male circumcision is common in the United States and other countries for religious and cultural reasons and to help prevent urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted diseases.

But some health officials in Swaziland worry men could start to think that removing the foreskin is like wearing a “permanent condom,” destroying the impact of years of safe sex education.

“I am worried about sending mixed messages,” said Janet Khumalo, a counsellor at the FLAS clinic.

Her fears are not unfounded. The South African study showed circumcised men registered a slightly higher level of sexual behavior immediately after the operation, although many health officials say the benefits still outweigh the risks.

FLAS hopes the new trend will push men, usually slow to use reproductive health services, to come in and talk about safe sex, enabling the promotion of other services like condoms.

Mills said there was a risk untrained practitioners might start performing operations on the cheap. Scores of men are killed in South Africa every year in traditional ceremonies.

But he hopes that if further studies confirm the South African research, donors will help countries like Swaziland circumcise all male babies and as many young men as are willing.

“This could be the cheapest and one of the most effective interventions so far in the fight against HIV,” he said.

In some cases, persuading men to give up their foreskins seems to be easier than getting them to wear a condom and health officials are not sure why, beyond the obvious fact that circumcision is a one-off event, unlike wearing a condom.

Recently circumcised Titus Shabangu, a 36-year-old driver in playboy sunglasses and a smart shirt, had his own theory.

“Swazi men have heard that it is a good thing and when you play with you partner the sex is good,” he told Reuters. “That is why they come.”

- Reuters

HIV hits blacks harder in US, study finds

February 6, 2006

Just over half of new infections with the AIDS virus in the United States are in blacks, U.S. researchers reported on Monday.A study of detailed data from 33 states shows that of 156,000 new cases of HIV infection between 2001 and 2004, 51 percent were in non-Hispanic blacks — although blacks made up just 13 percent of the population in those states.

“The rates are extremely high for African-Americans,” Tonji Durant of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who led the study, told a news conference.

The rate of new infections declined in black women and in many black men — with the exception of men having sex with other men, Durant’s team reported.

“Despite reductions in diagnoses among African American men and women, HIV continues to pose a major health threat,” the CDC said in a statement.

“Despite possible signs of success, HIV continues to exact a disproportionate and devastating toll on African Americans.”

Durant and colleagues found that the rate of HIV diagnosis fell by 6.8 percent annually among black women and 4.4 percent annually among black men between 2001 and 2004.

The HIV diagnosis rate even fell by 9.7 percent every year on average among black male users of injected drugs, the CDC study found.

Blacks still had a substantially higher infection rate than other ethnic groups, the CDC team told the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections being held in Denver.

“For African-American men, it is seven times the rate of white men and for African-American women it is 21 times the rate of whites,” Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the National Center for HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis, said in an interview.

CDC officials noted the declines were in the number of new diagnoses — not necessarily new infections.

IMPROVING AWARENESS

Fenton said public health experts need to work harder to make people aware that AIDS is still an epidemic, to inform them about the benefits of getting tested and to let them know there are treatments available that can keep them healthy, even if there is no cure.

“Some of the factors which are preventing them from getting tested are stigma and fear,” Fenton said. People fear rejection from family and friends if they test positive for HIV.

“They hear that these treatments are expensive and wonder how they could possibly afford it,” he added.

“What we need is a long-term and sustained effort.”

Fenton said the entertainment industry, media and other community figures could be put to better use, and better options made available for people to get the often-expensive HIV drugs.

The human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS is spread by homosexual and heterosexual sex, by sharing needles with someone who is infected, or via blood transfusions. Infected mothers can pass the virus to their babies.

The virus infects close to 40 million people worldwide and more than 1 million people in the United States.

The CDC estimates that 40,000 Americans become infected with HIV each year.

A second study presented at the same conference found that 32 percent of black men in Baltimore who had sex with other men, which includes homosexual and bisexual activity, were infected with HIV.

More than 9 percent of the 891 men became infected with HIV during the year of the study.

Indian man sued after hiding HIV status from wife

February 1, 2006

An HIV-positive man has been arrested in India’s western state of Gujarat after his wife accused him of concealing his disease for over four years, police said on Wednesday.Police arrested Harish Kantharia at his home in the city of Surat and have charged him with committing a “negligent act that could endanger life.”

“I went for a routine gynaecological test during my pregnancy and medical reports revealed that I am HIV positive,” said Kantharia’s second wife, Lata, who then forced her husband to take blood tests.

Police officer R. S. Patel said Kantharia had confessed.

“He admitted that he (knew he) was infected by the deadly virus but he hid it from the complainant and even from his first wife who died due to AIDS.”

Lata, who married Kantharia in May 2002, plans to seek compensation for herself and her unborn child.

AIDS workers praised her defiance.

“This is a rare case as Indian women, who are mostly infected by their husbands, never muster the courage to file a criminal complaint despite the fact that they are cheated by their husbands,” said Dr. Anil Dhaval of the Gujarat HIV+ Society.

India is second only to South Africa in the size of its HIV-positive population, with officially more than 5.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS.

Half of them are women often infected by husbands who visit sex workers. Non-government organisations say true infection rates are much higher.

 


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