India Needs To Expand HIV/AIDS Prevention Programs To Reach Every Person at Risk for Disease, Opinion Piece Says
Although many of India's political leaders see the "urgent need for aggressive" prevention and treatment measures to prevent an "AIDS catastrophe" in the country, prevention measures need to be "expanded to reach all those at risk," Melinda French Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in a Seattle Times opinion piece (French Gates, Seattle Times, 4/11). According to official estimates, fewer than 1% of India's one billion people are HIV-positive; however, that translates into 4.6 million people, making India second only to South Africa in its number of HIV cases. Many experts believe that as many as 10 million HIV-positive people live in India and that the country could have 25 million HIV cases by 2010 if the epidemic is left unchecked (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/2). During a recent trip to Kolkata, India, French Gates says she learned that the "three urgent priorities" for preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS in India are empowering women, reaching mobile populations with prevention education and fighting stigma surrounding the disease. Women can be empowered to fight HIV/AIDS by being given opportunities to help plan and participate in prevention programs, French Gates says. Prevention programs involving commercial sex workers need to be duplicated countrywide, and new technologies such as microbicides that allow women to protect themselves against HIV need to be developed, French Gates says. Prevention programs that involve mobile populations at high risk for HIV/AIDS -- including truck drivers, soldiers and migrant workers -- also are needed, she says, adding that the Gates Foundation has committed $200 million to supporting Indian prevention programs that focus on sex workers, truck drivers and other "vulnerable" groups. French Gates concludes that to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in India, the country will need "more clinics, more condoms, more testing, more information ... more treatment" and "additional resources from rich countries and international agencies" (French Gates, Seattle Times, 4/11).
CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday featured an interview with Microsoft Chair Bill Gates about the foundation's donations to HIV/AIDS prevention programs in India (Simon, "60 Minutes," CBS, 4/11). Video of the segment is available online in RealPlayer.