Marie Ng

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Gates-backed AIDS project in India prevented 100,000 HIV infections, study says | 

Mike Urban, 2003

Nisha visits her son Allwyn's grave in Delhi. He died from AIDS, unknowingly transmitted to her by her husband.

A $258 million initiative sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation aimed at preventing AIDS in India appears to have paid off overall, researchers say, resulting in more than 100,000 fewer new HIV infections over five years.

Many aren’t quite ready to judge this project, Avahan, a success, however.

The project failed in three of the six Indian states where it was tested. And many are concerned that the amount of money spent to achieve these mixed results makes the approach highly impractical for poor countries.

The analysis of this project’s impact was done by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, also sponsored by the Gates Foundation. This awkward situation is hardly unusual, as the Seattle philanthropy is now one of the primary funding sources for all things global health.

But before anyone gets too excited about the potential conflict of interest, which is real but which I can also attest has been repeatedly and vigorously debated within the UW Institute, it should be emphasized that the analysis was peer-reviewed by editors at The Lancet before publication.

The UW authors admit that their study results are preliminary and incomplete. Even with all the caveats, lead author Marie Ng says:

“The take-home message here is that prevention programs can be effective. Despite the heterogeneity of these results, it is clearly significant that we found more than 100,000 HIV infections were prevented.”

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