India's Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement Partners With AIDS Healthcare Foundation Global Immunity in New AIDS Treatment Clinics in Karnataka State, India

LOS ANGELES -- AIDS Healthcare Foundation, (AHF) the largest AIDS organization in the United States, which currently operates free AIDS treatment clinics in the United States, Africa and Central America, and Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM), a respected Indian NGO, announce a groundbreaking new clinic partnership -- AHF's first such venture in Asia -- that will bring life-saving anti-retroviral therapy (ART) to people living with HIV/AIDS in Karnataka State in Southern India. 

AHF, under its AHF Global Immunity program, has joined forces with Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement to provide ART to patients at facilities in Mysore and Koppal in Karnataka State. Initially, a total of 150 patients will be treated: 100 at the facility in Mysore and 50 in Koppal. AHF, which has more than 18 years experience providing HIV/AIDS medical care at its clinics and hospice in the United States and for more than three years its clinics in Africa and Central America, will oversee the HIV/AIDS clinical care; SVYM, will handle the social service, organizational and operational needs on the local level.

"AIDS is truly on the doorstop of Asia, and anything that we can do now -- providing anti-retroviral treatment, prevention services -- to help break the chain of infection may also help India avoid the magnitude of the crisis of AIDS in Africa," said Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation's president. "I'm honored to partner with Dr. Balasubramaniam and the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement in these new, free AIDS treatment facilities in Mysore and Koppal, India."

"This is the first effort of its kind wherein a nationally reputed NGO like the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement, an international NGO like AHF and the Government of Karnataka State, India have all come together to fight the scourge of HIV/AIDS," said Dr. R. Balasubramaniam, president of Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement.

"The clinic in Mysore is located in the government district hospital, and it is a fine example of how things can shape up if governments and NGOs come together. We are most happy to report that our first patients at the Mysore clinic went on treatment in late May, and we look forward to a long and continued partnership with both AHF and our government in the battle against AIDS here in India," Dr.(Flt Lt).M.A. Balasubramanya, secretary of Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement and Head of its HIV/AIDS program added.

Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM), is a registered, voluntary social service organization started by a group of medicos of Mysore Medical College in the year 1984. Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement has been active in the field of HIV/AIDS for nearly 5 years and has been pioneering the cause of prevention and capacity building in rural and tribal areas. It has established the country's first sub district level voluntary counseling and testing center (VCTC), the country's first rural blood storage center, and the country's first sub district level prevention of mother to child transmission program (PMTCT).

AHF Global Immunity is a non-profit, international initiative of AIDS Healthcare Foundation that works in partnership with local stakeholders to establish replicable, scalable and sustainable models for HIV/AIDS medical services delivery in resource-constrained settings.

The two new Indian AIDS treatment facilities will operate in partnership with SVYM's who in turn has enlisted the support KR & combined hospitals of Government Medical College, Mysore at MYSORE and an NGO named Samrakasha at KOPPAL. The sites were chosen based on the caseload, capacity and accessibility. Both these sites are also high HIV/AIDS prevalence areas in the state of Karnataka.

In Mysore, KR & combined hospitals is state government-run medical institution with nearly 2000-bed facility attached to Government Medical College, Mysore the oldest medical school in the state of Karnataka.

At Koppal, Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement's collaborator, an NGO named Samrakasha runs a 15-bed facility for care and support of people living with HIV/AIDS. The facility has already enrolled nearly 300 HIV/AIDS patients. Some of them are on ART on a self-financing mode. The World Health Organization (WHO)'s protocol is being followed for ART management.

"India is estimated to have the second largest HIV infected population in the world with more than 5.1 million persons living with HIV/AIDS," said Henry Chang, AHF Global Immunity's executive director. "Karnataka is one of the six states in India that has been classified to have a high-risk generalized epidemic by the National AIDS Control Organization in New Delhi. It is our hope that these two new treatment centers -- AHF Global Immunity's first in Asia -- serve as models for the delivery of HIV/AIDS medical services in resource-constrained settings throughout India just as our treatment clinics in South Africa, Uganda and Honduras do."

The HIV disease burden in Karnataka is already high. As of 2002, data from antenatal clinic attendees (pregnant women) suggest that the overall prevalence of HIV in the adult population is as high as 1.7  percent in 2002. The prevalence of HIV among those attending STD clinics is approximately 14 percent. This means that at least one in six persons with an STD is perhaps already infected with HIV.

Assuming an adult prevalence of 1.7 percent and an adult population aged 15 to 49 of over 30 million, it is estimated that there are more than 500,000 persons now living with HIV in Karnataka. There is also compelling evidence that the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Karnataka has been growing over the past decade. Over the past 10 years, the HIV seropositivity rate among those tested at voluntary HIV testing centers has risen steadily and substantially from 0.2 percent in 1992 to 14.9 percent in 2002 and is currently 22.3  percent in 2003.

As of December 2002, only 4 percent of the actual number of people living in Asia with HIV/AIDS and requiring anti-retroviral therapy has access to ART.

"The combination of commitment and expertise in clinical, public health and management skills that are essential for successful HIV treatment programs are brought together by this exciting new partnership," said AHF Global Immunity's Chang. "We, too, look forward to a long, continued -- and successful -- partnership in the fight against AIDS in India."

Source: AIDS Healthcare Foundation

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