Gates Foundation’s Efforts To Fight AIDS in India ‘Stirred Controversy,’ Wall Street Journal Reports
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's $200 million HIV/AIDS program in India, which aims to halt the spread of HIV in six states and target the whole nation by 2008, has "stirred controversy," the Wall Street Journal reports (Chase, Wall Street Journal, 5/3). There are approximately 4.58 million people living with HIV/AIDS in India, a number second only to South Africa (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/23). The foundation's prevention program, which is known as Avahan or "call to action" in Sanskrit, seeks to bolster the current efforts of the Indian government in HIV/AIDS prevention. The program promotes condom use, encourages responsible sexual behavior and seeks to improve the diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/16). When the foundation's programs were launched, government officials questioned why the grant money was not channeled through state agencies, the Journal reports. In addition, Bill Gates' warnings of an explosive HIV/AIDS epidemic in India "raised blood pressures" among government officials "famously 'prickly'" about such projections, Teresita Schaffer, director of South Asian programs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said. India's National AIDS Control Organization Director Meenakshi Datta Ghosh said that although she accepts the foundation's assistance, she rejects "forecasts of doom or statistical disputes," according to the Journal. In addition, the Indian media questioned the foundation's motivations, claiming that Gates was seeking to protect his technology interests in the country. However, Gates said that the project had "no business motivation" and that forecasts of exponential HIV/AIDS growth in India are accurate, according to the Journal. "I would say almost every forecast for AIDS has ended up being on the low side if you go back through the 1980s or 1990s," Gates said. However, Gates added that the foundation is "past [the] stage" of conflict with the government, adding, "We're getting good partnerships" (Wall Street Journal, 5/3).
AIDS Awareness Group
A companion article available to subscribers of the online version of the Journal on Monday profiled a "host of smaller nongovernmental organizations ... struggling with more modest resources" to fight HIV/AIDS. One of the organizations is the AIDS Awareness Group in New Delhi, which addresses HIV/AIDS in prisons and "sexual combat zones" (Chase, Wall Street Journal, 5/3).
Additional information on HIV/AIDS in India is available online at kaisernetwork.org, including a kaisernetwork.org video feature on India and facts about the epidemic in India with links to other sources of information.