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India contacts: Sharad Goswami, for the India AIDS Initiative Phone: +91 124 5061812/13 (office), +91 98103 56688 (mobile) Email: email@example.com
U.S. contact: Patti Pierson Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Phone: +1.206.709.3400
NEW DELHI -- The board of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s India Aids Initiative announced the disbursal of its first grants in India today. The grants, for up to $67.5 million over five years, were made to seven organizations that will implement significant parts of the initiative’s HIV prevention strategy.
The announcement was made today after the first board meeting of the India AIDS Initiative by JVR Prasada Rao and Rajat Gupta, co-chairs of the board; Helene Gayle, former Director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s HIV/AIDS, TB, and Reproductive Health program; and Ashok Alexander, Director of the India AIDS Initiative.
“With the announcement of these initial grants, the India AIDS Initiative has now entered the implementation phase of its HIV/AIDS prevention program,” said Mr. Prasada Rao. “The overall goal is to decrease the prevalence of HIV in high-risk groups and stabilize it in the general population by 2008. We are determined to achieve that goal.”
“With our first grants we are also naming our initiative Avahan, or “call for action,” said Mr. Gupta.
During Bill Gates’ visit to India last year, the Gates Foundation announced an initial $100 million commitment to HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in the country. The foundation today announced that it has increased that commitment to $200 million. This is the foundation’s single largest commitment to any HIV/AIDS-related initiative in the world.
“The HIV/AIDS epidemic in India is reaching a critical juncture, with the level of infection rising as much as 20% per year. We only have a small window of opportunity to prevent a widespread epidemic,” said Dr. Gayle. “The foundation is committed to working with the people of India to scale up effective HIV prevention efforts.”
The foundation has identified two core strategic initiatives as part of its focused prevention program in the country. The District Focus State Impact initiative will support HIV prevention programs in the six highest-incidence states for female and male sex workers, their clients, injecting drug users, and other high-risk populations. The National Highways initiative will be implemented along 7000 kilometers of the major highways in India, covering interstate truckers/helpers and highway-based commercial sex workers and their partners.
To support the District Focus State Impact initiative, the grants announced today will fund Hindustan Latex Family Planning and Promotion Trust and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance to implement comprehensive HIV prevention interventions in Andhra Pradesh, including treatment of STIs (sexually transmitted infections), behaviour change communication, condom promotion, and voluntary HIV counseling and testing (VCT) services. The Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society and the University of Manitoba will implement similar HIV prevention interventions in the state of Karnataka.
To support the National Highways Initiative, the Transport Corporation of India (TCI) and the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) will implement targeted interventions along the national highways, including STI treatment, behaviour change communication, condom promotion, and VCT. In addition, Population Services International will establish STI clinics catering to commercial sex workers and their clients in the six highest-prevalence states and the national highways. Quality STI services are a critical component of HIV prevention efforts because STIs can significantly increase HIV transmission.
“This is the first instance in the history of HIV/AIDS programming in India where such a wide ranging coalition of partners will work together under a single nationwide project,” said Ashok Alexander, Director of the India AIDS Initiative. ”We hope that by combining the abilities of these partners, we will significantly enhance the effectiveness of HIV prevention efforts.”
With the grantmaking process underway, the Initiative plans to announce the next series of grants over the coming months.
“We are aiming at completing a large part of the grantmaking process within the next few months. Almost all programs identified by the foundation will move into implementation before the end of this year,” Mr. Alexander said.