Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has urged Indians to start talking more openly about safe sex to check the spread of the HIV virus that causes Aids.
This follows growing alarm among Indian health officials about the spread of the virus to rural areas where health care is poor. Aids workers dispute official figures that say the rate of HIV infection has fallen sharply in India. More than five million people in India are HIV positive. Only South Africa has more people with the virus.
"You should comprehend the need to educate our young about the modes of transmission of this disease," Mr Singh said on Thursday in comments to mark World Aids Day. "Leading a healthy and safe sexual life is one of the commitments we must all make."
Recent figures released by the government suggest that HIV is now spreading from traditional high-risk target groups, like truckers and sex workers in cities, to those living in rural areas. This only confirms that the government message on Aids prevention is getting through to enough people, our correspondent says. In a conservative country like India, it is not always easy to promote awareness about safe sex. In the past, some leaders of right-wing Hindu groups have also said that emphasis should be on abstinence rather than advocating the use of condoms which, in their view, only encourages promiscuous trends in society.