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DELHI -- Bill Gates announced today that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has increased its funding commitment to Avahan – an initiative to reduce the spread of HIV in India – to a total of $338 million.
Launched in 2003 by the Gates Foundation, Avahan provides funding and support to targeted HIV prevention programs in six Indian states and along the national trucking routes. Prior to today’s announcement, the foundation had committed a total of $258 million to Avahan.
Mr. Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, will meet on Friday with Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Union Secretary for Health and Family Welfare, to discuss their shared commitment to prevention as part of India’s comprehensive response to HIV/AIDS.
“Prevention is absolutely essential for fighting HIV, and will ultimately save millions of lives,” said Mr. Gates. “I congratulate the Indian government for its leadership on HIV prevention, which can be a model for the rest of the world. Our foundation is committed to working with India over the long haul on a variety of critical health issues.”
Mr. Gates and Mr. Azad will discuss plans to gradually transition key aspects of Avahan to the government of India and other partners. During this transition, Avahan will provide financial and technical support to ensure that prevention programs can be sustained over time. Avahan has already awarded more than $100 million in grants for this transition.
Mr. Gates is in Delhi this week to receive the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament, and Development on behalf of the Gates Foundation. The foundation is being recognized for “pioneering and exemplary philanthropic work around the world and in India in health.”
As of July 2009, the foundation has committed nearly $1 billion for health and development projects in India. Globally it has committed approximately $11.95 billion in grants for global health.
Avahan Programs Making Progress Against HIV
Avahan funding and support has helped a wide range of partners – including government agencies and more than 100 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – to significantly expand access to HIV prevention. Every month, Avahan-supported programs provide hundreds of thousands of people with risk-reduction counseling, access to condoms, treatment for sexually-transmitted infections, and other prevention services.
“Our collaboration with Avahan has made it possible to reach far more people with proven HIV prevention interventions," said K. Sujatha Rao, Secretary and Director General of NACO. “This strong partnership will continue as key aspects of Avahan transition to the government in the coming years.”
While it is too early to fully assess Avahan’s impact on HIV risk behaviors and infection rates, the early signs are encouraging. Data from some of Avahan’s target areas suggest that sex workers have become more likely to use condoms, and that rates of sexually transmitted infections have decreased among people at risk. Several independent studies are underway to help evaluate Avahan’s long-term impact.
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