Bill Gates ups AIDS aid to $338 mn in India


New Delhi : Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and one of the world’s richest men, Thursday announced an increase in his foundation’s AIDS prevention commitment in India to $338 million, saying India’s AIDS prevention could be a model for the rest of the world.

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Launched in 2003 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it provides funding and support to targeted HIV prevention programmes in six Indian states, including Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, and along the national trucking routes through its own initiative called Avahan.

Prior to this, the foundation had committed a total of $258 million for the purpose.

“Prevention is absolutely essential for fighting HIV, and will ultimately save millions of lives,” Gates told reporters.

“I congratulate the Indian government for its leadership on HIV prevention, which can be a model for the rest of the world. Our foundation is committed to working with India over the long haul on a variety of critical health issues,” he said.

Gates, co-chairman of the Gates Foundation, will meet Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and other top officials to discuss their shared commitment to control of the diseases.

Gates and Azad will discuss plans for gradually transition of key aspects of Avahan to the Indian government and other partners. During this transition, Avahan will provide financial and technical support to ensure that prevention programmes can be sustained over time.

Avahan has already awarded more than $100 million in grants for this transition.

“Our collaboration with Avahan has made it possible to reach far more people with proven HIV prevention interventions,” said K. Sujatha Rao, director general of the National Aids Control Organisation.

“This strong partnership will continue as key aspects of Avahan transition to the government in the coming years.”

India is home to 2.5 million HIV positive people including over 70 children below the age of 15.

Gates is in Delhi to receive the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament, and Development on behalf of the Gates Foundation. The foundation is being recognized for “pioneering and exemplary philanthropic work around the world and in India in health”.

As of July 2009, the foundation has committed nearly $1 billion for health and development projects in India. Globally it has committed approximately $ 11.95 billion in grants for global health, the foundation claimed in a statement.

For the last six years, Avahan-supported programmes provide thousands of people with risk-reduction counselling, access to contraceptives, treatment for sexually-transmitted infections, and other prevention services.