India has urged the international community to vigorously scale up actions to provide resources in the global effort to combat HIV and AIDS.

Addressing a high level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on HIV and AIDS on Wednesday, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad called for a proactive and collective action from the international community to dismantle trade and intellectual property right barriers and improve the availability of affordable and quality drugs for the needy and impoverished.

“Pharmaceutical companies in my country have been providing high quality and affordable drugs for use not only in India but also supplying to around 200 countries. I would also like to take this opportunity to make it abundantly clear that these generic drugs are not cheap in terms of quality,” Mr. Azad said in his address to the General Assembly.

“It is important that considerations of commerce and profitability are not used to erect artificial barriers between life and death. I would also like to urge the international community to work together for removing barriers in the form of Intellectual Property Rights or other means,” he said.

The international community, the minister said, must also ensure, that all flexibilities in TRIPS must be used for better availability of affordable medicines.

Mr. Azad said India has a strong prevention programme which goes hand in hand with care, support and treatment.

“We have been able to contain the epidemic with a prevalence of just 0.31 per cent. We have also brought about a decline of 50 per cent in new infections annually. Over the last decade, there is evidence of stabilisation of the epidemic with definite success in reversal in some parts of the country,” he said.

“Our focus has been on high risk groups, expanding services and improving access to Anti Retro Viral Therapy. Universal access to second line ART and early infant diagnosis are in an advanced stage of being rolled out,” Mr. Azad said.

Strategies for behaviour change communication include ’The Red Ribbon Express’, which is a unique train that covers the length and breadth of the country disseminating awareness about HIV/AIDs and providing services to about 8 million people annually, the minister said.

“We are now at the threshold of commencing the next phase of the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP -- IV).

Mother to child transmission of the infection continues to be a challenge. We aspire to achieve zero transmission in the new born,” he informed.

India’s strategy, Azad said, is to to convert the 27 million annual pregnancies into institutional deliveries for efficacious preventive interventions through better detection of HIV positivity amongst pregnant women.