In 2005, TANSACS (Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society) partnered with Siaap for the implementation of the GFATM project in Kasthuri Bai Gandhi Hospital, Chennai, with the objective of increasing access of pregnant women to PPTCT services (Prevention of Parent-to-Child Transmission) and to care and support services. This was done by recruiting a team of outreach workers who would be in direct contact with pregnant women in the community. Outreach workers would also liaise with Anganwadi workers and SHGs to provide information about STIs, HIV/AIDS and PPTC services. The impact of outreach work is seen through phenomenal numbers of spouses (79%) accessing PPTCT services between 2005 and 2006.
Support Group Meetings occur for PLHAs (people living with HIV/AIDS) and their family members, through which they receive emotional support, both from their peers as well as from Siaap staff. Besides providing space to share their fears, and concerns, these meetings help in engaging them in important discussions around self-care, personal hygiene, breast-feeding, safe sex and nutrition. What we have learned from these meetings is that:
- most affected women were unable to negotiate with their spouses for safe sex and family planning
- many HIV infected women had faced extreme discrimination and breach of confidentiality at the hospital. In one instance, Veena, who was HIV infected had come for her second delivery (name changed to maintain confidentiality). She had planned to go in for a family planning intervention that time. However, tormented by the harsh words and physical abuse within the hospital as a result of her HIV status, she ran away from the hospital only to come back for her third delivery.
- many of them experienced financial difficulties for which they sought assistance either in the form of jobs or providing them with tailoring or grinding machines which would help them to generate revenue.
- many feared consequences with regard to disclosure of their HIV status to family members and some of them faced discrimination from their extended family.