November 11, 2002
Dr. Helene Gayle, who heads the Gates Foundations AIDS efforts, said the first grants will be awarded early next year, but full details of the program have yet to be worked out. The foundation has hired the director of the New Delhi office of McKinney & Co., Ashok Alexander, to coordinate the initiative. Grant decisions will be made from the foundations headquarters in Seattle.
The foundation is seeking to reach Indias mobile populations, which have shown infection rates far higher than the general population. It plans to fund prevention efforts that have proven successful elsewhere, including condom distribution, treatment of other STDs, and high-profile public education efforts featuring popular celebrities as well as civic leaders. Gates said the initiative will complement Indias National AIDS Control Program, and the foundation will establish partnerships with government ministries, the national railway and oil companies and other organizations.
At the truck stops, theres a thriving commercial sex industry, Gayle said. Thats clearly a population we would work with. We also know theres same-sex activity in some of these mobile populations, she said. Gayle said the foundation would support policy reforms such as shortening the time truckers wait to cross borders between Indias states, which could reduce opportunities for HIV transmission.
The initiative underscores the Gates Foundations strategy of promoting AIDS prevention while leaving treatment largely to others. While the number of HIV infections in India is large, it represents only about 1 percent of its population, far lower than infection rates in southern Africa.