There was some potentially exciting news which came out of the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation last week. A released program assessment in “The Lancet” medical journal showed that an estimated 100,000 people in India may have escaped HIV infection over a five year span.
The Gates Foundation has spent $258 million on it’s Avahan AIDS prevention project in India, a country in which 2.4 million people are infected with the immune deficiency. The Avahan project has become one of the largest programs which attempts to curb expansion of this fast growing world epidemic.
Looking at Avahan from 2003 to 2008 the assessment saw a drop in each of the observed six Indian States, ranging from 2% up to 13%. The broad program focuses on a handful of effective ways to reach vulnerable groups, including needle exchanges, safe-sex counseling, and condom distribution. The program aimed to reduce the number of infections within the general population by targeting groups, which are at a higher risk of spreading the disease.
The greatest success was seen in three of India’s populous southern states, where the epidemic is largely spread through sexual transmission. In the northern states of Manipur and Nagaland, where drug injections are more responsible for HIV progress was much less dramatic.
As with many studies, the Gates Foundation mentions in the Avahan report that the conclusions presented do come with a certain degree of uncertainty, and the co-authors also note the presence of other HIV prevention programs running in the area.
Experts from the World Health Organization commented on the report saying that despite many remaining questions about the project's overall success, the findings are an encouraging first step.
The Gates foundation has spent another $80 million on Avahan since 2008, and is currently shifting responsibility over the Indian government.