The Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria on Thursday pledged $100 million to India to fight HIV/AIDS in the country, AFP/Inquirer.net reports.
The agreement was signed by Global Fund Executive Director Michel Kazatchkine and the director of India's Department of Economic Affairs. DEA will be the main recipient of the funds, which will be used to scale up antiretroviral treatment programs and increase access to voluntary counseling and testing services. In addition, part of the grant will be used to train health workers to address stigma associated with the disease through efficient communication efforts. The grant will be used for the second phase of India's HIV/AIDS control plan.
Kazatchkine after signing the agreement urged the Indian government to consider offering incentives to private companies that are involved in HIV prevention and treatment. He also called for cooperation between private and public health providers to increase access to services for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said the grant is "very positive news for India's fight against AIDS and the many people living in the country infected with HIV or affected by the disease." Kazatchkine added that "[s]tigma and discrimination associated with AIDS in India are still delaying treatment and care for HIV-positive people and preventing people coming forward for testing". He added that the Global Fund is "proud to continue funding the important work that is being done to provide care and treatment to people living with AIDS and to change social attitudes that leave so many vulnerable to stigma and discrimination."
The new grant brings the total approved amount of Global Fund resources allocated to India to $492 million. Global Fund support to India has provided antiretroviral treatment to about 80,000 people living with HIV/AIDS and TB treatment to about 245,000 people. According to India's National AIDS Control Organisation, there still is a spending shortfall in the country's budget of $2.9 billion to fight HIV/AIDS during the next five years. "There is still an opportunity (for more funds)," NACO head Sujatha Rao said, adding that the "cost of (drugs) are also coming down." Rao did not provide a specific amount for the shortfall, AFP/Inquirer.net reports.
According to estimates released earlier this year, about 2.5 million people in India were living with HIV/AIDS in 2006.
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation