Bangladesh is often seen as one of the earliest incubators of NGOs, and the birthplace of micro credit NGOs such as the Grameen Bank. HASAB was one of the very first linking organisations of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and has been a pioneer in a country of pioneers, supporting many NGOs and CBOs to take action on HIV in Bangladesh and keep the number of new HIV infections at a minimum.
When HASAB started there were three people known to have AIDS defining illnesses in Bangladesh and 26 others who were living with HIV. Today, prevalence is still under 0.1% (around 8,000 estimated cases) but it has reached 7% amongst injecting drug users in Dhaka, potentially triggering an explosive epidemic amongst drug users and their partners.
The fifteenth anniversary celebrations were a demonstration of the collaboration that has made HASAB a long-term success. Participants included current and former staff, leaders from the 63 NGOs and CBOs that are currently direct partners (and through them 376 others), government officials and donors.
‘The idea of building national NGO intermediaries that would mobilise and support community responses to HIV took hold early in Bangladesh. HASAB has grown from it and all the partners at this event have benefited from its support and contributed to keeping HIV prevalence low for the last 15 years. It's a day of pride and joy,’ concluded Alvaro Bermejo, the Alliance's executive director, at the event.
HASAB, which started as a project of the national organisation Centre for Development Services (CDS), became independent in 1998. Fifteen years later it has grown into a strong, mature, independent national organisation with a leading role in the civil society response.
HASAB excels in direct service provision as well as onward granting and building the capacity of CBOs. It holds a diversified programme portfolio including focused HIV prevention with young people; targeted prevention with sex workers, their clients and men who have sex with men; care services for people living with HIV; as well as work to address the human rights of marginalised people. It has also initiated a number of innovations in the HIV response in Bangladesh including half-way home services for people living with HIV, prevention of mother to child transmission and comprehensive support for pregnant women living with HIV, and human rights training and protection for marginalised groups.
All this has been made possible by the development of a broad, diversified funding base that includes Global Fund grants (from Round 2 and Round 6), the Asian Development Bank, Terre des Hommes, Oxfam Novib, UNICEF, World Bank and a local Foundation (Manusher Jonno) among others.
HASAB has been a pioneer in a country of pioneers