India remains a challenging country for HIV/AIDS advocacy with low treatment coverage rates and outdated testing models, but recently a small AHF delegation made promising inroads with key decision makers in the country, which will hopefully lead to a stronger relationship with the Indian government and positive policy change.
In Delhi, AHF’s Chief of Global Advocacy and Policy Terri Ford, newly appointed AHF India County Program Director Dr. V. Sam Prasad and Community Ambassador Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil met with the Personal Physician to the President of India Dr. M. Wali at the Presidential Palace residence.
Dr. Wali acknowledged that in several ways India’s response is behind that of Africa and India needs to do much more. As the country with the third largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world, India must strive for more effective health provisions for them.
“As a personal physician to eight previous prime minsters and multiple presidents, Dr. Wali is a key ally who clearly understands that far more needs to be done to get the national AIDS response on track,” said Ford. “With his ability to open doors to top level officials, our advocacy can reach the highest echelons of Indian government.”
In Delhi, the AHF team also met with Lieutenant-General Ravi Raichand, a retired high ranking general. Raichand had researched AHF before the meeting and asked the team many questions. The general expressed his fascination with AHF’s work and said he is willing to help AHF India advance constructive policy change on HIV/AIDS. AHF presented the general with a copy of the “Righteous Rebels” book as a gift.
On a stop in Mumbai the AHF team visited the AHF Joythis Care Center, a home and treatment site for women with HIV/AIDS and TB who have been cast out by their families because of stigma. The center is operated in cooperation with a Catholic order of nuns who take care of the women. For 2017, AHF has budgeted and plans to launch a Rapid Testing Program mobile unit, which will help strengthen testing model advocacy and grow the number of people on treatment at the center to over 1,000 clients.
The trip also included a visit to Goa as well as numerous meetings with other government officials, NGO leaders, community activists and private sector executives. Additionally, the team visited the premise of what will become the new headquarters for the AHF India office and clinic in Delhi.
“This was a tremendously successful and packed trip for us. With a series of positive meetings with influential people in the government we are building the scaffolding for a stronger, reciprocal relationship with high-level decision makers in India,” said Dr. Sam. “Once we have their attention, we want to push and encourage them to implement policy changes that will streamline testing, expand treatment access and strengthen programs for the most vulnerable.”