Global Fund Executive Director Expected To Ask India To Increase Efforts To Fight HIV/AIDS
Richard Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, is scheduled to begin a five-day tour of India on Sept. 15 and is expected to ask that the country increase its efforts to fight HIV/AIDS to "prevent a catastrophe," the Hindustan Times reports. Feachem is scheduled to meet with India's prime minister, finance minister and health minister to discuss the seriousness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country (Hindustan Times, 9/9). According to the Indian government, there were 5.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the country in 2003. However, the number of new HIV infections in India could increase to 5.5 million annually by 2033 if urgent steps are not taken to prevent the disease's spread, according to a World Bank report released last month. If the Indian government does not increase its prevention efforts, HIV/AIDS will become the leading cause of death in the country, accounting for 17% of overall deaths and 40% of infectious disease deaths by 2033, according to the report. Currently, HIV/AIDS accounts for 2% of deaths and 6% of infectious disease deaths in India. Although India has a program to fight HIV/AIDS, the disease has spread beyond high-risk groups into the general population (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/16).
Encouraging Corporate Participation
The Global Fund has allocated $413 million to India for seven programs, with $165 million designated for HIV/AIDS initiatives. However, Feachem said that both the Indian government and the country's corporate sector are not doing enough to curb the epidemic. In particular, he "expressed regret" that the government did not submit to the Global Fund for its fourth round of funding a proposal from Tata Steel to extend its corporate HIV/AIDS program to the community (Hindustan Times, 9/9). "Tata Steel's proposal to extend its HIV/AIDS program from the labor force to the community had been excluded by the Country Coordination Mechanism," Feachem said, adding, "This was very disappointing. But Global Fund would like to see more well thought-out corporate proposals. We would like to encourage corporate leaders to go forward with good proposals for their work force and the community where they live." Feachem added that companies such as Tata Tea and the Indian Railways -- which he says is the world's largest employer -- should implement similar HIV/AIDS programs (Datta, Business Line, 9/8).
Congressman Asks Bush for More AIDS Funds for India
Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) last week sent a letter to President Bush asking him to increase funding to India for HIV/AIDS programs in the country. The letter was in response to the Bush administration's decision to include Vietnam but not India under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Crowley release, 9/7). Bush in June announced that Vietnam will be the only country outside of Africa and the Caribbean eligible for funds through PEPFAR. The five-year, $15 billion PEPFAR originally directed funding to 12 African nations -- Botswana, Ethiopia, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia -- and Haiti and Guyana in the Caribbean (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/23). "While I am pleased that new funding has been allocated to Vietnam, we cannot ignore the pressing needs of India in regards to fighting the AIDS crisis there," Crowley said, adding, "India is not just one of the many countries that could form the next wave of the HIV/AIDS pandemic but perhaps the most important. Just from its sheer size and population mobility, the chances for the disease spreading to the general population are great. The outcome of India's fight against HIV/AIDS will undoubtedly affect not just its economy, which is one of the fastest growing in the region, but also that of its neighboring countries. With these economic implications at stake, the need for U.S. assistance should not be questioned" (Crowley release, 9/7).
A kaisernetwork.org video feature on HIV/AIDS in India is available online. The report -- prepared by Fred de Sam Lazaro, also a correspondent for the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer -- includes interviews with people who are on the front lines of India's efforts.