Mumbai:Praful Patel, vice-president of the World Bank’s South Asia region and one of the most popular Indian faces at the bank, is busy hunting for ideas that can be shaped into a set of programmes to tackle the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS in the area.Under the initiative, the first of its kind by the World Bank, proposals have been invited from civil society organizations in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, which will present their ideas on changing attitudes and practices that undermine HIV/AIDS programmes.Emphasizing that wrong attitudes and practices have often hurt efforts to fight HIV and AIDS, Patel said the World Bank will identify 25 proposals out of the thousand it has received. The bank will then develop and carry out the selected ideas in the region. A majority of these would be implemented in India, Patel said in an interview with Mint . The initiative is important to India, a country with 2.5 million people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Edited excerpts:
Why is the World Bank taking this kind of an initiative now?
We have learnt from experience that the social perspective of HIV/AIDS is different from that of other diseases. This is mainly because of the stigma and discrimination associated with this disease, which not only marginalizes people at risk and people living with the disease, contributing further to their social isolation and rejection, but also undermines the efforts by governments, non-government organizations and institutions like the World Bank to fight it.
Praful Patel, vice-president, South Asia region, World Bank
So, we have taken this initiative to invite people and organizations familiar with the problems of the most vulnerable groups, to manage the social stigma these affected people are going through.
How will it be implemented?
We have selected 75 proposals from civil society organizations from across South Asia. They will gather in Mumbai this week to display some of the best and most innovative ideas on reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS.
The World Bank, along with other development partners, is hosting a competitive development marketplace here aimed at showcasing and funding such innovative approaches. A jury of members from the international HIV and AIDS community will select 25 proposals, which will receive grant funding of up to $40,000 each to implement their ideas over 18 months.
How will it help make anti-HIV programmes more effective?
We need to tackle stigma and discrimination by changing attitudes and perceptions through actions. We hope this development marketplace initiative will challenge common myths and misconceptions about the disease throughout the region and beyond.
The initiative was originally launched last year by reaching out to communities across South Asia seeking proposals for local, small-scale projects with the potential to be scaled up and replicated. In just over three months, nearly 1,000 civil society organizations from across the region submitted proposals.
We believe that this huge level of interest demonstrates that an enormous amount of work to fight stigma and discrimination is already ongoing in South Asia. We hope that through this programme we will learn of innovative approaches that can be incorporated into the national AIDS strategic planning and programming.
Is there support coming from outside for this initiative?
The South Asia regional development marketplace is sponsored by the government of Norway, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, UNAIDS and UNICEF, apart from the World Bank group. It is actually a competitive grant programme that uses a transparent process to identify and support grassroots initiatives with innovative approaches to solving challenging development issues.