The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will fund Alliance for AIDS Action (AAA) to maintain the Avahan programme in two of the three regions of Andhra Pradesh until the end of 2013. The work will be sustained by a gradual transition of control to the government.
AAA implements Avahan with 35 partner organisations in fourteen districts of the southern state, which has one of the highest HIV infection rates in India. Most of the 139 project sites are in urban and peri-urban areas with very limited resources.
Avahan has so far reached more than 70,000 members of key populations, including female sex workers, transgender people and men who have sex with men.
In 2008 the programme treated more than 50,000 cases of sexually transmitted infections and distributed twelve million condoms.
Key to its success has been the network of project clinics set up by AAA and its partners. These employ trained outreach workers who are themselves sex workers, people living with HIV or members of other marginalised populations. To make them more accessible, the clinics have been named ‘Mythri’, meaning ‘friendship’ and ‘goodwill’ in the local language.
Mythri clinics deliver treatment of sexually transmitted infections, free condoms, counselling and education.
The project also runs drop in centres – safe meeting places where members of stigmatised groups can discuss issues affecting their communities. In-depth consultation with these groups ensures that the clinics and other services stay in tune with client needs.
To guarantee the long-term future of the Avahan projects, AAA will hand over their management to the government in a phased process ending in 2012. The first five projects will be transferred this year to the state AIDS control society on the recommendation of NACO, the National AIDS Control Organisation.
Prabhakar Varma, Executive Director of AAA explains, “It is a two way transition for us – turning our project office into a linking organisation, and transferring the prevention projects to the government.”