Fighting The Demon Inside
Guna in Madhya Pradesh is a major trucker’s halt. Truckers are recognized 'transmission-bridges' of HIV/AIDS and fall within the high risk category. We have been in close contact with the truckers in Guna, thanks to our long-standing CSR partnership with GAIL (India) Ltd.All through this partnership, we have felt the need to increase their awareness on the killer malaise – our Sexually Transmitted Infection or STI project targeting truckers is direct fallout of this understanding
Unfortunately, most of India’s HIV/AIDS awareness interventions are focussed towards urban centres, despite the fact that most of our HIV infections are from rural areas. We believe our project with truckers will be a major first step towards correcting this lopsided effort. With time, the project has gained popularity.
At Guna, we confront the issue with a multi-pronged intervention programme that includes BCC, IEC, counselling, awareness camps, street plays, condom distribution, lessons on proper condom usage, safe sex practices, medicinal support to the STI cases and referrals of patients for HIV testing. GIDF has also added to this a free STI clinic facility for truckers, right at their door step.
A significant addition to the Guna project is a unique Behaviour Change Communication(BCC) Park – designed to open up the truckers otherwise reluctant to discuss the subject often considered taboo – the issue of HIV AIDS. This 'Park' is placed at a stones throw from a popular trucker's halt, at a space provided by GAIL India Ltd. Here, the high-risk group can be 'edutained' in a casual atmosphere, by showing movies and involving them in interactive sessions while they also enjoy games like carom board & cards.
"Project MITR distributes 52000 free condoms each month"
Providing information and support to people living with AIDS
A key aspect of GIDF’s work in the area of HIV/AIDS initiative aims at supporting people living with HIV/AIDS. One of the most unfortunate ways HIV/AIDS affects an individual is the social stigma attached to the disease. Lack of awareness and knowledge about the spread of the disease coupled with low or no literacy amongst poverty ridden regions leads to PLAs being ostracized by their own communities. A recent study* conducted by GIDF shows that most people living in the regions we work in have no knowledge about how the HIV/AIDS infection spreads along with a number of myths surrounding the disease.
GIDF is in the process of launching a programme that will target rehabilitation of individuals who are affected by HIV/AIDS while also creating awareness campaigns that aims to destroy the myths about the disease.
"When people got to know about my husband contracting HIV/AIDS infection he was rendered jobless. I soon discovered I had got infected too. People stopped talking to us in our community. With GIDF’s support I now make a living talking to various ‘at-risk’ people, spreading the message of how to avoid the infection and how to rehabilitate people like us back in the community"
Shanti Devi, Team GIDF
Some facts and figures about Project MITR:
- Each month, Project MITR reaches up to 40000 vulnerable people with the message of safe sex and HIV/AIDS prevention.
- Till mid 2010 over 26 villages and town have been covered with behaviour change messages to prevent HIV/AIDS and we have spoken to 30,000 people in various communities to encourage acceptance of PLAs and erase the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS in these commun.
- We are UNICEF’s grass root level partner NGO of choice in many parts of Madhya Pradesh.
- GIDF is also a partner of choice for DSACS & MPSAC.
- On an average, we provide free HIV testing to 3 vulnerable people every day
- Till mid 2010, we have distributed 12,48,000 of free condoms.
- Every week/fortnight, we hold street plays in ‘hot spots’ to spread the message of safe sex. Demonstration of correct condom usage is a core part of this street play.
- Growth in number of vulnerable people covered from2008-10
2008 - 09 7500
2009 - 10 11000
- %age of high risk group individuals attending project MITR clinic 2010-09 2008-09 1500 people had visited the clinic out of which 25% were high risk group (HRG) individuals 2009-10 9400 people have visited the clinic out of which 65 % are HRG individuals.
Life Beyond The Closet
ACM GIDF has entered into partnerships with government and other agencies to arrange access of testing and treatment facilities to HIV AIDS high risk groups. One such initiative is currently taking shape in Delhi, the national capital.
Men having sex with men or MSM is a recognized high-risk group, but, due to intense social stigma, most people in this group prefer not even to be identified, leave alone be checked for HIV. This increases incidence of infection among them, and even beyond them. Understanding the express need to address this problem, ACM GIDF has focused its Delhi HIV/AIDS operation towards reducing HIV infection and transmission among the MSM.
We believe it’s not enough to convince them to come out of their closets and become more aware, but there is also a need to bring attention to and mobilize action around policies, laws and other initiatives that impact the health and human rights of MSM in the Indian capital. That’s also the reason why ACM GIDF has directed its advocacy initiatives towards increasing resources and elevating under-represented issues that are unique to MSM and HIV – and taking these issues to key stakeholders like state governments, local leaders and national development agencies.
For this, we conduct group meets and awareness camps in select hotspots of Delhi, including common intervention initiatives like BCC, IEC, condom promotions, setting up of STI healthcare camps, hold networking and linkages meetings with premier hospitals and various other stakeholders. Our target is to also encourage a stronger networking with support system for the MSM community. We believe this will not just reduce risk behaviour, but also improve conditions within the community through an improved sense of confidence and self-esteem. Our STI centres also conducts regular medical checkups and syphilis screening, with help from medical teams trained in Presumptive Syndromes Treatment.
What encourages us most is the response we are getting from this high-risk group. People who were afraid to take a single step out of their closet are now aware of the importance of VDRL testing and pre and post counseling to address STI related issues – that’s one achievement we are proud of.