The Tamil Nadu AIDS Initiative (TAI), floated by Voluntary Health Services, a non-profit organisation, has chosen a panel of nine advertising agencies to take care of its information, education and communication needs.
Euro RSCG, Grey Worldwide, Flame Advertising, Image Advertising, Sreshta Communications, N&D Communications, Chhaya Advertising, Media Vision and Kerala Publicity Bureau have been selected for one year, after which there will be a review, said Dr Lakshmi Bai, Director of TAI.
Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the organisation seeks to bring about a qualitative change in the lives of commercial sex workers in Tamil Nadu, primarily by making them aware of AIDS.
In addition to a stream of educational material targeted at commercial sex workers, TAI is looking at running media campaigns for the general public. Prior to each campaign, the agencies will be asked to send their proposals, based on which one will be assigned the job. "It's not just the cost; concepts will matter too," said Dr Bai.
TAI, which is familiarising the agencies with the issues, wants communication that is "innovative and interest generating". Dr Bai said the marketing budget will depend on how the campaigns pan out, and refused to confirm media reports that TAI is planning to spend around Rs 6 crore for the same.
According to the Web site of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has committed Rs 920 crore to HIV prevention in India through Avahan, "the Voluntary Health Services received a grant of $13 million (Rs 60 crore) to expand access to HIV prevention services among vulnerable populations ... The initiative will cover 16 of the State's 28 districts that have the highest prevalence of HIV."
The first phase, targeting around 34,000 commercial sex workers, is on now.