TAMIL NADU

Gates Foundation's AIDS initiative launched

The Karnataka Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna (right), greeting the Avahan AIDS Initiative board member, Sudha Murthy (left), at the launch of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's programme in Bangalore on Friday. The Additional Secretary and Project Director, Meenakshi Datta (2nd right), and the Union Health Secretary and Co-chairman of Avahan, J.V.R. Prasada Rao, are also seen. — Photo:V. Sreenivasa Murthy

The Karnataka Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna (right), greeting the Avahan AIDS Initiative board member, Sudha Murthy (left), at the launch of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's programme in Bangalore on Friday. The Additional Secretary and Project Director, Meenakshi Datta (2nd right), and the Union Health Secretary and Co-chairman of Avahan, J.V.R. Prasada Rao, are also seen. — Photo:V. Sreenivasa Murthy  

BANGALORE Dec. 5. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in association with the Karnataka Government, today launched the $25 million (Rs. 115 crores) programme to scale up HIV prevention in the State where an estimated five lakh people have been infected by the virus.

The initiative, launched by the Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna, is part of the Foundation's broader national HIV prevention package of $ 200 million over a period five years through Avahan — the India AIDS initiative.

Karnataka is the first State to receive the tranche out of the $ 100 million grant announced earlier.

The other States that would get the grants are Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland, according to Ashok Alexander, Director of Avahan.

The Union Health Secretary and Co-chairman of the Board of Avahan, J.V.R. Prasad Rao, said 49 high profile districts had been chosen for the initiative and Bellary was one of them. He referred to the anti-viral therapy to be started in 2004 and said the Indian manufacturers of drugs had agreed to reduce the prices of drugs.

The Chief Minister expressed happiness that the Foundation had responded quickly to the State's request to provide assistance for scaling up HIV/AIDS prevention activities.

Mr. Krishna, who is the Chairman of the Karnataka AIDS Prevention Society, said the country was second only to South Africa in terms of the number of AIDS patients and cautioned that if the epidemic was not seriously addressed now, India might surpass South Africa.

Karnataka is one of the six high prevalence States in the country. As this affected the productive age group, unless controlled in time, it could cause severe socio-economic loss to the country. Sudha Murthy, member of Avahan, promised to do her bit personally and on behalf of the INFOSYS Foundation.

Vandana Gurnani, Project Director, Karnataka AIDS Prevention Society, welcomed the chief guests who included the Health Minister, Kagodu Thimmappa, the Minister of State for Indian Systems of Medicine, Nafeez Fazal, and the Minister of State for Minority Welfare, M.L. Ustad.

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