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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged US$100 million to fight HIV/AIDS in India, but has come in conflict with the Indian government about the speed at which the epidemic is worsening in the country.

Official figures state that the number of HIV carriers in India has stabilised at about four million. But others estimate that five to eight million Indians are already infected.

Bill Gates, currently on a four-day trip to India, sparked criticism from the Indian government by backing a US National Intelligence report that estimates that the country's HIV-positive population could jump to 20 to 24 million by 2010. Indian Health Minister Shatrughan Sinha said on Friday that the projection was "completely inaccurate".

The grant — the Gates Foundations' largest single donation to a country for HIV/AIDS — will be used to improve awareness of the disease and to increase access to HIV prevention measures, especially among mobile populations at particular risk of contracting HIV, such as truck drivers and migrant workers.

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