After working for more than a decade in HIV intervention, the state chapter of Avert Society will shut down by March 2012. Due to the global economic crisis and shift in focus to other health and environmental issues, funds for several other Aids projects in Maharashtra haven’t been renewed, activists said.
“Many projects will be handed over directly to the Maharashtra State Aids Control Society (MSACS),” said Smriti Acharya, project director of Avert Society, a bilateral partnership between National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) and the US government.
“Of the 14 NGOs under Avert Society, we have accepted four,” said Ramesh Devkar, project director, MSACS. “After an evaluation process, we will get new organisations to run the remaining 10 initiatives.”
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also handing over its projects to MSACS. “Transition of 30% of projects is complete. The remaining will be handed over by mid-2012. NACO will fund the projects,” said Devkar.
“Ultimately it is between the government and the community,” said Sanyogita Dhamdhere, from Centre for Advocacy and Research, Pune. “Targeted intervention resulted in reduced incidence of HIV. NGOs should focus on empowerment and mainstreaming of HIV patients.”
Apart from mother-to-child transmission, groups that are left out of HIV intervention programmes, such as migrants, will the focus for the next phase of the government’s HIV/AIDS response. Experts say Community Based Organisations (CBOs), which take over completed projects, may need handholding. “Communities such as female sex workers may not have adequate literacy levels or organisational skills to manage funds,” said Shilpa Merchant, head of Sangini Sanghamitra, a CBO.