About 70,000 children below the age of 15 in India are battling the dreaded HIV/AIDS, some who are born with it and others who have got it through blood transfusion, a top health ministry official revealed for the first time here Tuesday.
"There may be 70,000 children infected with HIV in India with nearly 21,000 new infections occurring every year," Health Secretary Naresh Dayal said.
According to Arjan De Wagt, a US-based representative of Unicef, there are around 530,000 HIV infected children worldwide and nearly 15.2 million children are orphaned due to AIDS.
India has so far been surveying the HIV positive population in the 15-59 age group and this is the first time that the government has released data on the HIV positive children population.
Speaking at the launch of the 'Policy Framework for Children and AIDS' Dayal said: "The figure is based on the new estimates of HIV prevalence in India".
Earlier this month, the health ministry had released fresh data that halved the estimates of AIDS prevalence in India - the new data shows that the country is home to 2.5 million AIDS patients as against the previous estimate of 5.2 million.
National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) chief K. Sujatha Rao said that the organisation that is part of the ministry now has a record of around 19,000 children.
"We have a record of 19,000 children and are looking out for the rest of these young patients. At present we are giving anti-retroviral doses to 6,500 kids," Rao said.
Elaborating on the measures launched to reduce the number of children being born with HIV infection, Dayal said: "The government is implementing a nationwide programme called Prevention of Parent-to-Child Transmission."
"Since the introduction of this scheme four years ago, we have counselled and tested nearly five million mothers, detected 47,000 HIV positive mothers and provided prophylaxis (treatment for the prevention of a disease) to 20,000 mother-baby pairs," Dayal said.