Gates Foundation Donates Additional $80M To Indian HIV-Prevention Program, Receives Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will give an additional $80 million to Avahan, a foundation initiative launched in 2003 for HIV prevention programs in India, Bill Gates said on Thursday, the Seattle Times blog, “Business of Giving” reports. Previous foundation commitments to the program, “which involves more than 100 non-profits in six Indian states,” total $258 million, the blog writes (Heim, 7/23).

According to the Times of India, Gates and Indian Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad “will discuss gradual transition of Avahan to the government. Avahan has already awarded more than $100 million in grants for this transition.” Gates said, “It’s not that the foundation is leaving India. The amount we spend in India on health and development will actually go up but will focus on other things like nutrition, maternal and child health and vaccines,” the Times of India reports (Sinha, 7/24).

The Telegraph reports that the Foundation plans to support other health issues, including vaccines to prevent pneumonia and viral diarrhea and drugs to treat visceral leishmaniasis, said Gates, who is in India to receive the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development on behalf of the foundation. According to the Telegraph, “Avahan-supported programmes have reached an estimated 220,000 commercial sex workers, 80,000 gays and about 5 million men at risk of becoming infected with HIV” (7/23).

Gates, who received the peace prize on Saturday, said, “The Indian government must accelerate its progress toward its health spending targets, so that innovations benefit the poor people who really need them,” the International Business Times reports. He also reiterated the foundation’s long-term commitment to helping India deal with a variety of health issues, saying, “India bears a massive burden of disease. But in the next five years, it can make more progress on health than it has made in any other five-year-period in its history” (7/26).

The Seattle Times reports that “Avahan has begun handing over the reins to the government-run National AIDS Control Organisation [NACO]. During the transition, ‘Avahan will provide financial and technical support to ensure that prevention programs can be sustained over time,'” according to the foundation (7/23). In a written statement, K. Sujatha Rao, Secretary and Director General of NACO said, “Our collaboration with Avahan has made it possible to reach far more people with proven HIV prevention interventions. This strong partnership will continue as key aspects of Avahan transition to the government in the coming years” (Gates Foundation release, 7/23)

While in India, Gates also met with the state of Bihar’s chief minister, Nitish Kumar, via video conference about polio and visceral leishmaniasis eradication efforts in the area, the Hindu reports (Banerjee, 7/25).  Gates told Kumar, “We are ready to work with your government and all partners in the polio effort to stop transmission in Bihar and ultimately assure all parents that their children are safe from this crippling disease,” the Bihar Times reports (7/24).

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