“India’s dedicated focus on HIV prevention is fetching dividends. We are seeing the beginning of the stabilization of the HIV epidemic in India,” said Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss, Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.

He was addressing experts and delegates at the17th International Conference on AIDS in Mexico City. “We must not be complacent, however,” he cautioned, stressing that “the key to overcoming the HIV epidemic is to take HIV services to those on the margins of society and we can only do that in an enabling environment.”

India’s targeted HIV intervention approach which relies on strong community participation has resulted in larger numbers of people accessing HIV prevention, treatment and care services. Responding to questions from the delegates, the Minister expressed his strong support for the draft legislation on HIV which is currently being whetted by the Law Ministry.

 “Structural discrimination against those who are vulnerable to HIV such as sex workers and MSM must be removed if our prevention, care and treatment programs are to succeed,” he said. “Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes Men who have sex with Men, must go.”

India has about 2.5 million HIV infections and many states have started recording a stabilization of the epidemic. However, hotspots of HIV infection are emerging in northern India, particularly in the rural interiors, which are home to thousands of migrants who work outside their states in India’s economic hubs like Mumbai and Surat.

“Initiatives that address the unique needs of migrants must be immediately launched to avert a potential rise of HIV infections among migrant populations,” said Ms.K.Sujatha Rao, Additional Secretary and Director General of the National AIDS Control Organization, India’s apex body leading the country’s response to HIV and AIDS.

India has begun a massive scale up of prevention care and treatment strategies to achieve universal coverage by 2011 through the National AIDS Control Program- III which was launched last year.