As we - the Indians - ceremonially worry about AIDS and HIV along with the rest of the world on this day (December 1st), another killer disease has been sweeping away thousands of lives in this country to their graves every day. This is a silent killer called Tuberculosis (TB). One person dies every minute from TB in my country. More than 5,00,000 people die of this disease every year In India. More than 1.8 million people are getting infected with the disease in my country every year and India accounts for more than 30% of people infected worldwide.
Compare this with figures available for AIDS. Nobody is certain about the number of people affected by AIDS or HIV in India. All figures available are actually estimates. It was estimated in 2005 that there were 5.2 million HIV positive people in India. This was highly exaggerated. By 2007, National AIDS Control Organization (NACO)of India came out with new estimates which said about 2.8 million people were affected. By March this year, NACO came out with another estimate saying 1.8 to 2.9 million people are HIV positive in India. Estimates again say about 72,000 people were affected by this disease in 2006-2007. The number of fresh cases of HIV/AIDS are coming down and recent estimates show that 20,000 people in India are likely to get infected by this disease every year.
Nearer home, about 7000 people are likely to get infected with TB in Assam alone every year. And the number of HIV positive people in Assam? Less than 1000 till today. One reason why TB is not getting much attention is because TB is curable but AIDS is not. But look at the death figures! TB affects poor people with a weak immune system. It needs expensive and continuous treatment for at least six months. It is virtually incurable for them.