India Undeterred by Global Donors' Pullout for AIDS Control

Wednesday, 30 November 2011, 12:04 Hrs
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New Delhi: The battle against the deadly HIV-AIDS will not weaken even as some of the major global funding bodies aim to pull out of India's fourth phase of National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) 2012-2017.

The change in funding structure of the next AIDS control mission will not be a blow to the country's battle against the disease, said National AIDS Control Organisation's (NACO) additional secretary Aradhana Johri.

"Due to the global meltdown, some of the international donors will not fund NACO programmes. But we cannot let this hamper our interventions on HIV-AIDS and the crucial programmes will go on," Johri told IANS.

NACP 3 was launched in July 2007 with the goal of halting and reversing the epidemic by mid-2012.

"The World Bank will still support us," Johri said ahead of the World AIDS Day.

Some of the key donors that have pumped money for HIV-AIDS interventions in India are Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, World Bank, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative (Now Clinton Health Access Initiative), and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Earlier this year, the Gates foundation decided to hand over the funding of projects to the government. The move is just a transition phase, according to experts.

"It is uncertain at the moment how lack of funds will impact the substantial contributions earlier made in NACP," said UNAIDS country coordinator Charles Gilks.

Global donors have laid the future course of programmes on the government's shoulders.

Experts feel the global financial crisis in 2008 and the focus shifting from AIDS to other diseases will affect the distribution of funds in developing countries.

NACO officials, however, say the Planning Commission will pitch in with what it needs.

"The 12th financial plan (2012-2017) is also in the making simultaneously. So the planning commission well understands our requirements, and healthcare has been listed as a priority," Johri pointed out.

But while dilution in international funds doesn't worry NACO, a major challenge for the organisation is to sustain the achievements of NACP 3, fighting hard against the civil society perception of "NACP 4 being copy-paste of its predecessor".

"We have brought down the number of infections from nearly 5.2 million to 2.5 million. There are regional and national consultations going round-the-clock, working groups and experts from all across the country have been involved, how can it be a copy-paste," the NACO official questioned.

NACO's blueprint of NACP includes awareness, identifying high-risk groups (HRGs), mapping high prevalence states, diagnose and counselling at the Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC), treatment at the Anti-Retroviral therapy (ART) centre, scaling up coverage of HRGs, safe blood supply, and testing services in remote parts of the country.

Johri explains: "Our area of focus would be targeting injected drug users (IDUs) who are migrating to northern states. Northeast and southern states are not the only high-prevalence regions. Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar also figure on our list."

IDUs, unprotected sex, infected blood supply are some of the key reasons of HIV transmission.

The work of the AIDS control department under the health and family welfare ministry set up in 1992 to combat AIDS also includes allocating funds to voluntary organisations and state AIDS control bodies, structure policies for targeted interventions all across the country, surveillance of the disease, and implementation of programmes among others.

According to experts, the period is critical for India that will not only phase slimming of funds but also changes in policies related to AIDS.

"It is important that the finance ministry analyses this critical phase for India where it has to tap the gains of NACP 3. We should not give up just because we fear to fall short of funds," said Gilks.

The first HIV positive case in India was detected in 1986 in Tamil Nadu. Now there are around 2.5 million HIV-positive people nationwide.

Source: IANS
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