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350 NGOs sacked in mega NACO clean-up

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350 NGOs sacked in mega Naco clean-up

Bhuma Shrivastava

New Delhi: The National AIDS Control Organization (Naco) has

discontinued almost 450 of its intervention programmes and sacked 350

non-government organizations (NGOs) as part of a massive clean-up and

crackdown on non-performing partners in India's battle against the


The main agency in India's AIDS and HIV prevention efforts evaluated

the programmes—known as " targeted interventions " (TIs)—and the NGOs

administering them in an internal survey in 2007. Another survey is

scheduled for next month as Naco tightens quality control and

scrutinizes effectiveness. Experts in the field have expressed

concern over the presence of substandard grass-roots-level

organizations—and say they are relieved by Naco's resolve to

eliminate them.

" We have discontinued almost 450 TIs. We had 1,200 interventions and

these have been brought down to around 756, " said Sujatha Rao,

director general of Naco. The axed interventions constituted 37% of

the whole programme, which is now supervised by 800 non-profits

aiming to specifically reduce infection rates among high-risk groups

such as prostitutes, drug users and men having sex with men.

" These organizations either had composite programmes that included

street children or some of them were bogus while others were without

relevant experience, " said Rao.

With an adult prevalence rate of 0.36%, India has the third largest

HIV-positive population of 2.47 million, trailing South Africa and


" It is indeed a concern that the NGOs working in the prevention area

were not effective enough. But this exercise has also indicated that

Naco is taking quality seriously, which is good news, " said Denis

Broun, country coordinator for India at UNAIDS. Broun pointed out

that while the Indian government had a " good measurement of inputs "

going into the HIV/AIDS programme, there was " a need for good

measurement of output as well " that could tally efforts with outcomes

as considerable resources were being spent on the initiative.

The third phase of the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) calls

for Rs11,585 crore to be spent between 2007 and 2011 on HIV

awareness, prevention and treatment for those afflicted with the

virus—an allocation that is five times the outlay proposed under the

second phase. Under the current structure, Naco works through 38

state AIDS control societies which, in turn, assess and approve

project proposals from NGOs found suitable by their technical

advisory committees. Naco provides the funding to the societies,

which oversee these organizations' management.

A Naco official, who didn't wish to be identified as he is not

officially authorized to speak to the media, said Naco's first

independent survey was conducted in 2001-02 and resulted in no action

against NGOs because it simply gauged the " processes " under which the

societies were working. Thus, the 2007 survey began the real

crackdown on non-performing NGOs, added the official, who will be

part of the third survey next month to assess whether the guidelines

of the third phase have been adopted.

There are 118 districts with HIV prevalence greater than 1%,

according to the latest Annual Sentinel Surveillence Country Report

2006, and 81 districts in which prevalence among high-risk groups was

greater than 5%.

The report also notes that although HIV prevalence had decreased

among injecting drug users in Manipur, the rates in all its

surveillance sites remained above 10%. Moreover, rates among female

sex workers in Nagaland and Mizoram were increasing; at sustained

levels of 10%, infection remained " uncontrolled among men having sex

with men " .

Broun, in an earlier interview with Mint a month ago, had said there

is need for research and investigation into whether the AIDS

programmes were missing out on some portions of the target population.

Rao said its stringent action was not evidence of Naco's

ineffectiveness, saying the agency was merely streamlining

interventions and weeding out ineffective organizations to stick to

the objectives of the new AIDS policy, which include expanding focus

to include truckers and migrants.

" Wherever we have done a TI, we have seen good results and prevalence

rates have come down, " she added.



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