The Indian government announced today that the "money and focus" of a new initiative is prevention (surprise, surprise) with condoms!
India primarily will promote condoms to prevent HIV transmission as part of the government's five-year, $2.5 billion HIV/AIDS initiative, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said recently...The initiative -- which is funded by the government, companies, aid agencies and not-for-profit groups -- aims to allocate 80% of the "money and focus" to preventing new HIV cases, with condoms being the primary prevention method promoted.
Nandini's comments: This is indeed refreshing news in a climate where latex is increasingly not the tool of choice for protection against HIV. Clearly, the Indian government has been resourceful in tapping money from its own coffers, the "booming" private sector, aid agencies that promote condom use and not-for-profit groups who have faith and conviction that condoms do work. It may be a tall order, but a necessary requirement that the Indian government monitors the roll out of this program and ultimately assesses the impact of such an intervention to prove that it put its money where it works -- how much will condoms contribute to the reduction in incidence and prevalence of HIV infections?
Additional news from India at the end of August suggests that condoms aren't getting all the attention!
ARVs and Accountability
India's Supreme Court on Thursday asked the government by the end of September to explain how it set a target of providing 100,000 HIV-positive people treatment at no cost by 2005 and why it has delayed the target twice.
Nandini's comment: This again is welcome news. Accountability strategies seem to be in place (at least in part) in India, with NGOs pushing the highest court to demand an explanation from the government about the slow roll out of ARVs. Reaching HIV+ citizens in rural areas is clearly, but not only, about logistics...NACO has much to learn from India's National Family Planning Program. Creating rural demand for free contraceptives in the 50's was a long term process as was for TB drugs, so announcing free ARV drugs is not a guarantee that people will come forward. The government must think of innovative approaches to reach all HIV+ people including overcoming stigma, so I look forward to the explanation it will provide to the Supreme Court at the end of this month.
Creating additional domestic resources for HIV/AIDS
As the Indian government scales up prevention and treatment programs, it is clearly thinking about raising additional resources for HIV/AIDS. A news item (subscription required) suggests that the Indian government may impose an airline ticket tax to fund an international drug purchase facility and HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention programs.
While the final decision is pending, "India's participation in the fund is regarded as a "matter of national prestige," according to the Financial Times. "ndia is still very donor-dependant, with the government contributing at best $80 million a year to the $500 million annual expenditure planned over the next five years" for domestic HIV/AIDS programs, Denis Broun, country coordinator for UNAIDS in India, said, adding, "The ministry will not want to impose this on the airlines unilaterally, but there's no doubt that generating more resources domestically would certainly help India in its own fight against HIV."
Nandini's comment: Nothing like generating domestic resources for a more sustainable prevention and treatment program, especially since it is uncertain how the big global spenders for HIV/AIDS are going to keep up their contributions, let alone increase them.