Avahan is an India AIDS Initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. A recent joint study carried by the IHME (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation), University of Washington, University of Hong Kong and the PHFI (Public Health Foundation of India) discovered that “Avahan” productively slackened the transmission of HIV in INDIA. Avahan was able to slacken down transmission of HIV by increasing the coverage of prevention interventions in high-risk groups like female sex workers, their clients and partners, men who have sex with men (MSM), intravenous drug users and truck drivers. About 1,00,000 new HIV cases amidst the populace was deflected in India in 5 years by aiming the susceptible segment.
- The project is working to reduce HIV incidence by treating and preventing Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in male clients of commercial sex workers.
In 2003 the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation began its large HIV prevention program, the India AIDS Initiative, later called “Avahan“, to curtail the spread of HIV in India. At the time, there was an understandable sense of urgency about the rising prevalence of HIV in the world’s second most populous country. In 2003 it received $258 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It complemented the government’s own efforts on HIV prevention. As of 2009 the Gates Foundation had pledged US$338 million to the program.
The foundation had three primary goals for this initiative:
- Build an HIV prevention model at scale in India
- Catalyze others to take over and replicate the model
- Foster and disseminate learnings within India and worldwide
Avahan has successfully built a large-scale HIV intervention program in its first five years. The programme was implemented in four large states — Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu and two small northeastern states of Manipur and Nagaland. These six states were estimated to have the highest HIV prevalence in India in 2003, and a total population of 300 million.
Rather than staffing HIV prevention workers on its own, Avahan provides government health organizations and NGOs with the tools they need to conduct HIV prevention on their own. Avahan’s primary prevention techniques include the following:
- training social workers to do peer education
- funding sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and treatment
- distributing condoms
- forcing communities who receive any aid to take total responsibility for the management of that aid
- funding social media to reduce stigma associated with STIs
- fostering access to HIV care and treatment
HIV mainly spread in India through sexual intercourse. High-risk population like sex workers would infect their clients who would then spread it to other female partners like their wives. Similarly, MSMs infected each other and then spread it within the general population through unprotected sex. Avahan showed that by targeting high-risk groups, the virus spread among the general population could be controlled.
India has an estimated 2.4 million living with HIV, making it one of the largest infected populations in the world.