The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced that it has increased its commitment to an initiative designed to reduce the spread of HIV in India from $258 million to $338 million.
Launched in 2003, the Avahan initiative provides funding and support to targeted HIV prevention programs in six Indian states and along the nation's trucking routes. As part of the initiative, hundreds of thousands of individuals each month receive risk-reduction counseling, access to condoms, treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and other prevention services. Although it is too early to assess the full impact of the initiative, data suggest that sex workers have become more likely to use condoms and that rates of sexually transmitted infections have decreased among at-risk individuals.
Bill Gates was scheduled to meet with Ghulam Nabi Azad, Union Secretary for Health and Family Welfare, last week to discuss his foundation's commitment to prevention as part of India's comprehensive response to HIV/AIDS and to discuss the gradual transition of key aspects of the Avahan program to the Indian government and other partners. Avahan already has awarded more than $100 million in grants to support the transition.
"Prevention is absolutely essential for fighting HIV and will ultimately save millions of lives," said 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."