More than four million people in India are carrying the HIV/AIDS virus, second only to South Africa with five million. The average daily treatment for an AIDS patient costs at least one dollar in India.

The Indian government will also launch a $43.6 million programme to provide free medication to HIV-positive parents, children up to age 15 and poor patients using government hospitals.

Health Minister Sushma Swaraj told journalists the government was in negotiations with Indian drug companies to get "rock-bottom drug prices" for Indian AIDS patients.
   
Drugs companies

Three Indian pharmaceutical companies are taking part in former US President Bill Clinton's project to slash AIDS drugs to 38 cents a day for developing countries. The Clinton plan announced in October applies to nine Caribbean and four African countries.

"I asked the Indian pharmaceutical companies why they couldn't bring down their prices for their own people when they were offering such a good deal to the Clinton AIDS foundation," Swaraj said.
  
"After a very fruitful meeting they promised to slash the prices to less than 38 cents for India if the government gave them certain export benefits. I will ask our finance minister to help, I'm sure the deal will go through."
  
Meenakshi Datta Ghosh, project director for the government's National AIDS Control Organisation, said the deal should be
formalised by April 2004.

"We need to put in place a core team of paramedics to administer the antiretroviral drugs correctly, therefore it may take three months to formalise the agreement. We have set a deadline of April 1," Ghosh said.