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India's High Stakes AIDS Fight

CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan reports on the struggle to curb India's AIDS epidemic in part three of a special series, India: Land of Contrasts.

More than 5 million people are living with HIV in India today — that's the population of Chicago and Houston combined. If nothing is done to slow the disease, the World Bank fears it will reach 35 million Indians by 2015, reports CBS News correspondent Lara Logan.

The fight to stop AIDS from spiraling out of control centers on the highest risk elements of society. HIV rates among truckers are five times above the national infection rate, and most have no idea they are infected.

Four million truckers crisscross India every day. Economic prosperity has brought better roads, but ironically that's also helped the disease travel faster — and wider. Now India's AIDS epidemic is second only to South Africa.

After a very slow start, it seems the Indian government has finally woken up to the problem. But that's 20 years too late for Dr. Ishwar Gilada. He began the first AIDS awareness program back in 1985, battling AIDS from the trenches of Mumbai's red light district.

Gilada discovered AIDS was rampant among the city's sex workers, half of whom have since died of the disease. "This was the AIDS capital of India," Gilada says. "The first AIDS case was diagnosed from here."

Today, sex workers are encouraging AIDS testing, treatment and, crucially, safe sex. "They're using condoms, they're protecting themselves, they're protecting their clients," says Gilada.

Ground zero in the fight against AIDS in India today is the filthy crowded streets of red light districts. The sex worker industry is the main source of India's AIDS problem, so the strategy is to target these high risk communities and try to control the disease by attacking it at its source.

That strategy pioneered by Gilada in Mumbai has succeeded in dramatically bringing down infection rates among sex workers. It's become the model for programs across India, and may signal, he says, the way forward.

But the stakes for India are so high former President Bill Clinton, who's working with Indian drug companies to make cheaper treatment available in developing countries, says that the world has a duty to help.

"If, let's say they have 5 to 6 million AIDS cases today, it'd be easy for them to have 50 million in no time at all, if you don't have education and testing and treatment in an aggressive way."

Mr. Clinton says he was initially very discouraged by India's attention to AIDS, but not any more. The government seems to be getting a handle on the scale of their problem.

"The fact that their medical profession is committed, that the government is committed, they have a plan now, this I think will be a very big year in India."

In a country of over a billion people, everyone hopes Mr. Clinton is right.