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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
India considers tourist Aids screening
Indian scientist at Cipla Laboratories working on cheap Aids drugs
As many as 23 Indians are infected every minute
India is considering monitoring foreign tourists to see if they are infected with the HIV virus that can lead to Aids.

The Indian health ministry has drawn up a plan to insist that visitors from abroad declare whether they are HIV-free on arrival.

HIV infection came to India from abroad and it still continues

CP Thakur, Health Minister

Indian Aids campaigners say as many as 23 people are being infected with the virus every minute.

According to a National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) report, at least four million Indians are infected with HIV/Aids.

But human rights activists say if the plan is implemented, it will be a violation of human rights.

Preventive measure

India's Health Minister, CP Thakur, said the plan to check all foreigners would go a long way to curbing the infection rate in the country.

An aids patient in India
Medical facilities are meagre for many victims

Dr Thakur told the BBC the proposal had been forwarded to the tourism and foreign ministries for consultation.

"HIV infection came to India from abroad and it still continues, mainly through the coastal route," Dr Thakur said.

Awareness programmes

This is not the only proposal on the drawing board.

The government in the western Indian state of Goa is considering a suggestion that everyone planning to get married has to undergo a mandatory HIV test.

Lead guitarist Salman Ahmed of pop band 'Junoon' in UN Aids awareness poster
The UN funds an Aids awareness programme

The health ministry is also going to launch a mass awareness programme in the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Manipur where HIV/Aids infections are rising rapidly.

Dr Thakur said political activists, businessmen and local people will meet to work toward setting up HIV testing centres, provide counselling facilities and conduct awareness programmes.

He said school students and factory workers would be the main targets of these efforts.

According to NACO, the HIV Aids epidemic is India's most serious public health problem.

Analysts say the spread of AIDS is advanced by low awareness and literacy levels, combined with large migrations of labour.

They say India needs to make up for lost time, if it wants to avoid Africa's fate.

See also:

07 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Asian drug users speed Aids spread
01 Dec 01 | South Asia
India's Aids campaigns in problems
05 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Asia warned of Aids epidemic
30 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
India HIV prisoner fights release
30 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Asia's burgeoning Aids epidemic
15 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Aids explodes on trafficking routes
15 Mar 01 | Africa
Analysis: Aids drugs and the law
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