Avahan through Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Lolano P. Khuvung
A  DIPR  Feature

Avahan is a Sanskrit terminology which means clarion call; call to action; summoning to duty. It supports projects working to prevent the spread of HIV in India through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

To stem the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in India , the Foundation has committed $200 million over 5 years to launch HIV/AIDS prevention efforts through AVAHAN- the India ’s Aids initiative, whose specific focus is HIV prevention in high risk groups.

Over the last five years, the Government of India has stepped up its efforts to address the threat of HIV/AIDS and has developed a national plan of action. The national policy for HIV/AIDS interventions is becoming increasingly favorable, with recent policy statements reflecting a sense of urgency.

AVAHAN has designed a comprehensive programme which tries to reduce HIV/STI transmission in select high risk populations, and in high prevalence states. The programme focuses on increased leadership and improved enabling and learning environment for effective HIV/STI prevention and care.

The AVAHAN strategy consists of two core strategic initiatives and four supporting inter-related and synergistic strategic initiatives. The core initiatives strive to achieve a near-saturated coverage of high risk groups in high risk geographies with high quality prevention programmes. The supporting initiatives of communication, advocacy, knowledge building, and capacity raising will help as complementary central resources helping the two core initiatives succeed. The six strategic initiatives are designed to work in synergy to achieve the greatest impact. It will be created and be based upon strong behavioral and biologic data, create and share the benefits of innovation and finally be responsive in meeting the different programme needs in AVAHAN’S geographic areas.

In Nagaland, “project Orchid” an HIV prevention project supported by AVAHAN, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s India Aids initiative was inaugurated on June 23rd 2004, by the former Governor of Nagaland Shyamal Datta.

Project Orchid delivers HIV prevention services in Nagaland and Manipur including comprehensive harm reduction for injecting drug users (IDUs) and prevention interventions for commercial sex workers. The Australian International Health Institute (AIHI) in partnership with the Emmanuel Hospital Association (EHA) implements the project with the support of a grant from AVAHAN of upto $5 million (Rs.23 crores) over five years.

AIHI and EHA collaborate with the Nagaland States Aids Control Society (NSACS) and Manipur Aids Control Society (MACS) to scale up HIV prevention efforts across the two states. Emphasis is placed on local capacity building through technical assistance, in order to develop sustainable HIV prevention programmes.

Project Orchid is one of several HIV prevention projects supported by AVAHAN, the Gates Foundation’s Rs.920 crores national HIV prevention initiative.

Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on Project Orchid- “Project Orchid’s planned efforts in Nagaland are unprecedented in scale and scope, and offer an opportunity to demonstrate the potential of public- private partnerships. I assure my personal support support and that of the Government of Nagaland to these efforts to stem the growth of HIV/AIDS epidemic in the state.

It is a matter of fact that Nagaland is one of the six states in India with high HIV prevalence, where the percentage of people infected with HIV is greater than one percent of adult population. Over 40% of the transmission of HIV in Nagaland is through injecting drug use.

Considering these realistic facts, each and every concern Naga individual, looks forward with optimism that Project Orchid would make a significant impact in stemming the epidemic in the state.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation works to promote greater equity in four areas- global health, education, public libraries and support for at risk families in Washington state and Oregon. The Seattle based foundation joins local, national and international partners to ensure that advances in these areas reach those who need them most. The foundation is led by Bill Gate’s Father, William H. Sr. and Patty Stonesifer.