New Delhi, April 24:

New HIV infections in India almost tripled in 2005 from the previous year, but were far below the half a million new cases seen in 2003, a government report said today.

The report, which drew on samples from government hospitals nationwide, said “5.206 million adult people are HIV infected,” India’s National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) said.

The latest data shows that India has 72,000 new HIV cases, increasing the overall number infected by 1.4 per cent. In 2004, the country reported only 28,000 new cases, which was much lower than the 520,000 new infections reported in 2003.

The number of Indians infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is second only to South Africa where as many as 6 million people are infected.

However, the rate of infection in the nation of 1.1 billion people is 0.91 per cent, well below South Africa and other sub-Saharan countries as India focuses on high-risk population to control the spread, NACO said.

But K Sujatha Rao, the chief of NACO, told Press Trust of India news agency, that although India could track infections better and was spending more money on prevention, the government did not know how many people were dying of AIDS.

The Indian Council of Medical Research is conducting a study to estimate the number of death linked to HIV and results are expected in two months, Rao said. However, the study may have gaps because 90 per cent of the infected people do not know that they carried the virus, Rao said.