If you grew up in the 80s in India, you might remember the Doordarshan ad that featured Shabana Azmi, as a school teacher who burst myths and dispelled stigma around HIV/AIDS.
As she embraces a little girl who plays an HIV positive student, Azmi says, “Chhoone se AIDS nahi hota. Chhoone se sirf pyar phailta hai.” (Touch doesn’t transmit aids. Touch only spreads love).
And given the social setting when the AIDS epidemic broke out in India, and persons tested positive were ostracised and looked down upon, the ad reflected the importance of creating an inclusive and supportive environment for HIV positive persons.
And even today as mass media, awareness rallies, seminars, lectures, education drives, etc. conducted to sensitise citizens to over 2.1 million people living with HIV in India, people with HIV/AIDS are still fighting for inclusion and equal opportunities.
Our country is the third largest HIV epidemic in the world. And 1st December marked as World AIDS Day, is a reminder that even though there is a long battle ahead of us against this life-threatening condition, the fight is against the disease, not the people affected by it.
Stigma and discrimination against HIV positive persons manifest itself in many ways, like inadequate access to health services, shaming and being shunned by family, peers and the community, poor treatment in educational institutes and workplace. In fact, most people die of AIDS because they refuse to undergo testing and treatment to avoid stigma, prejudice and abuse.
“Whenever AIDS has won, stigma, shame, distrust, discrimination and apathy was on its side. Every time AIDS has been defeated, it has been because of trust, openness, dialogue between individuals and communities, family support, human solidarity, and the human perseverance to find new paths and solutions,” said Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé.
In a country where HIV/AIDS is only spoken about in whispers, this World Aids Day, then let us go that extra mile and have a dialogue.
Acceptance is the first step. Having the courage to ask for help is next. Meeting others who are living with HIV/aids or have family members battling it, can be helpful. So if you are in need of help, or know somebody who might need it, here’s a list of support groups/NGOs that may help:
Positive People group in Goa:
The organisation was founded by Dominic D’Souza, the first HIV positive activist from Goa. D’Souza, a resident of Goa, was found to be HIV-positive and challenged the Goa Public Health Amendment Act, which called for the mandatory isolation of an HIV positive person.
The organization introduced the largest community home-based care and support programme in the State benefitting more than 3000 PLHIV with focus on strengthening and supporting community-based caregivers since 1992.
Some of the key programmes being run include free health promotion services, for the physical, the social and emotional well-being of PLHIV through support group meetings and community-based care. They also have special interventions for adolescents living with and affected by HIV through continuous counselling, nutrition, education and medical support and residential camps focussed on personality development, sexual and reproductive health. They also train them for entrepreneurship and provide seed money, subsidy, linkages to government schemes and individual mentorship for employment to strengthen financial independence.
When Anil Valiv’s HIV+ friend passed away, his father refused to light his funeral pyre. This level of ostracisation by immediate family members of HIV+ persons rattled him. It was at the time that he decided to launch a matrimonial website, PositiveSaathi, for HIV+ people a decade ago. Today, the free service, which has around 5000 registered members, is a source of satisfaction and pride for Anil. The initiative has facilitated hundreds of marriages between people who are HIV+ and facilitate care and companionship.
To know more, visit http://positivesaathi.com/.
HIV/AIDS Community Care Centre, Shanthi Bhavan:
Community Care Centre (CCC) provides treatment, care and support to people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV). These Centres help better community and family response towards PLHIV through family counselling. For better treatment outcome, the centres provide families of PLHIV counselling on the patient’s nutritional needs, treatment adherence and psychological support. These centres are run by NGOs selected through a rigorous selection process under the Puducherry government. Currently, it functions from:
60, METTU STREET
PUDUCHERRY – 605 014.
Manipur Network of Positive People (MNP+)
The Manipur Network of Positive People (MNP+) is a state level, community-based, non-profitable organisation, which was formed in 1997, by five ex-Injecting drug users who were living with HIV, fighting discrimination against IDUs and PLHIV. It is a self-support group which intends to overcome the constraints and limitations faced by the infected and affected by people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) for overall improvement in their lives in particular and society in general. It aims to ‘reduce stigma and discrimination and initiation of Networks among PLHIV in the state of Manipur in particular to provide friendly care and support, community sensitisation and mobilisation, advocacy to PLHIV & IDUs
Contact: MANIPUR NETWORK OF POSITIVE PEOPLE (MNP+)
Yaiskul Hiruhanba Leikai, Imphal
Headquartered in Chennai, SAATHII has offices in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal and implements programs in ten states of India. SAATHII is staffed by over 90 professionals in public health, social work, research, nutrition, program communication, and sexually transmitted infections. It provides care, support and treatment, and conducts sexual and reproductive health interventions in India through awareness and education drives, networking, operational research, advocacy, training and other technical assistance services.
(Registered & Central Office)
34 (Old 46), MG Ramachandran Road
Kalakshetra Colony, Besant Nagar
Ph: (+91) 44 2440-3663/947
The foundation aims to provide a healthy & nurturing environment for the physical, psychological & emotional growth of children afflicted with HIV/AIDS and ensure they are given education, shelter, medical and social support till they become independent.
ASHAKIRAN CHILDREN CARE HOME
Plot No.1284, Jain Basti Galli, Near Harsha Hotel,
Ramatirth Nagar, Belgaum -590015
9164575327 / 8494945327