Over the next two years, World Vision Armenia
intends to spend $3.2 million on AIDs prevention,
treatment and awareness in Armenia.
Funding for the initiative comes from the Global
Fund to fight HIV/AIDs, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
At a press conference yesterday (November 13),
National Director David Thomson said World Vision
will encourage non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) in Armenia to submit funding proposals
on how their organizations might participate in
the aims of the project.
A key strategy, Thomson and Global Fund team
leader Garik Hayrapetyan said, will be education
- specifically, carrying out programs that would
attack social stigma about AIDS/HIV and aim at
reshaping public perceptions.
Members of "high-risk" groups (i.e.,
drug users, homosexuals, female sex workers, migrants)
will be encouraged to visit six testing centers
that will be established throughout the republic
during the first year of the two-year program.
But: "If the high-risk groups feel stigmatized,
no one is going to come to be tested," Thomson
said. "The biggest killer is not just the
disease itself. What tends to kill people is stigma
Currently, Armenia is considered a "low-risk"
population, meaning that its high-risk group represents
less than one percent of the general population.
If fact, with only 232 registered cases of HIV
infection in Armenia (plus nine AIDs-related deaths
last year) the Global Fund grant would equate
to nearly $14,000 per case.
But the very fact that HIV/AIDs is yet in the
early stages of infection in Armenia places World
Vision in a position to encourage prevention,
a strategic vantage point that countries now suffering
mass outbreak - including Russia - might have
"We have some experience in the former Soviet
Union which helps provide a context for how we
will work in Armenia," Thomson said. "Here,
the focus will be more on education. It is actually
easier to run programs that offer care and treatment
than programs that focus on changing attitudes."
With intravenous drug use at epidemic levels in
the major cities of Russia, HIV/AIDs has spread
faster there in recent years than in any country
except for Sub-Sahara Africa. And, with so much
migration between Armenia and Russia, health specialists
fear that Armenia can't avoid a sure and rapid
increase of infection.
"Now is when the spread needs to be stopped,"
Thomson said. "Ten years from now will be
If after two years the Global Fund is satisfied
that the World Vision program is successful in
Armenia, there is potential for extending it into
a five-year, $7.2 million project.