India's efforts to fight HIV have for years centered around community-based programs run for people at high risk of contracting the virus, such as sex workers and injecting drug users. The results won praise globally, annual new infections fell consistently and, overall, were reduced by more than half between 2000 and 2011.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February cut the federal AIDS budget by a fifth and asked states to fill the gap, even though their poorly-run bureaucracies were already slow in releasing funds to their AIDS prevention units.

As a result, staff salaries have been delayed for months and prevention activities have slowed down.

The decision was part of a wider strategy to decentralize social spending and focus central government resources on building roads and railways to boost economic growth.

The U.N. Secretary General's Special Envoy for AIDS in Asia-Pacific, J.V.R. Prasada Rao, warned that 'primitive' management by states would 'ruin the programme'.

"When the new infections start rising, all the good work that has been done will be washed away," said Rao, who said he based his view on interactions with several federal and state AIDS officials in the last six months.

 

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