. Programmes - South India AIDS Action Programme

Programmes

 
SIAAP advocates and supports local disenfranchised communities to fight for their rights, and works with state agencies to ensure the government fulfill its obligation to its citizens. SIAAP works to empower WSW, MSM, and PLWHA who lack the basic rights of education, healthcare and money in its effort to halt the spread of HIV.

Some examples of its advocacy efforts:

Siaap…

  • is responsible for the Government of India ruling that no individual be imprisoned on the grounds of being HIV positive. This ruling followed from a case SIAAP won in the Madras High Court against the illegal detention of 800 women who were detained for testing positive for HIV, in 1989.
  • has worked with the Home Secretary since 2003 to prosecute aggressors committing violence against marginalized communities.
  • is advocating for the improvement of HIV care in hospitals and ensuring patient rights are met through public interest litigations and petitions in court.
  • is the leading VCT resource in Tamil Nadu. HIV Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) is provided by government hospitals as a result of advocacy put forth by SIAAP, which found against mandatory testing at STI clinics. Prior to this, HIV testing of at-risk populations in Tamil Nadu hospitals was mandatory, which led to further stigmatisation of these already marginalized groups.
  • encouraged 95 panchayats (village councils) to pass resolutions in support of PLWHAs, poor and marginalized women, and sexual minorities against violence and discrimination.
  • helped WSW, MSM, PLWHA, and blind people collectivise into 20 community organisations and formally register with the government.
  • helped enforce the national standard for condom quality and ensure that they be freely available to those who need them.
  • successfully fought for the inclusion of PLHAs in state and national advisory boards.
  • advocated to improve the quality of condoms for free distribution.
  • provided evidence for the success of counselling as an effective HIV prevention and care strategy
  • prepared guidelines, in collaboration with WHO, to help  improve the quality of VCTCs in the country.
  • worked with the Tamil Nadu government to pass an order directing police to focus on traffickers and not on individual women selling sex.

SIAAP’s current advocacy:

  • Amendment of Section 377 of IPC
  • Amendment of ITPA
  • HIV/AIDS Bill
  • Inclusion of marginalised communities into the District AIDS Advisory Committee

Anbu Karankal (“Loving Hands”) Positive Women’s Support Group

In 2002, Siaap helped initiate Anbu Karangal Pengal Paadukappu Urimai Sangam (AK), a network of HIV-positive women in Namakkal district, which has one of the highest HIV sero-positivity rates in Tamil Nadu. The objective of promoting this network was to enable positive women, many of whom were widows and single parents, to advocate for their rights. Recognising the role of gender in contributing to the epidemic, they strategically included men and youth in a primary way in their intervention.  Their membership stands at over a 100 women today.The services provided by Anbu Karankal include:

  • home-based care
  • community advocacy, such as advocacy for ART
  • marriage counseling
  • referrals to HIV/AIDs-related services
  • family sensitization
  • sensitization of panchayats, for example with regard to property claims
  • provision of legal services
  • testing and counselling
  • education around reproductive health and sexuality issues.
Community Owned and Managed Organisations (COMOs)

Siaap has intervention projects for marginalized people, including women in sex work, gay/bisexual men, and rural women in South India. Siaap’s experience with poor and marginalized people shows how imperative it is to build their own capacity rather than hand out charity. Siaap realized that NGO efforts should complement and not dominate grassroots efforts and that organisations of people from the community were more committed to advocacy and built more equitable partnerships with other community members.

In 1999, Siaap helped register the first community organization, ‘sangam’, to empower women in sex work and gay/bisexual men, strengthen their fight against the impact of HIV/AIDS, and establish a linkage to health, development, livelihood and other issues. Wherever there was a need felt by members of the community to join hands and express their solidarity towards empowering themselves, Siaap, stepped in and helped them organise their own community-based organization and to help register them formally.  Since 1999, the sangam model has become a success story that has been morphed by these groups from being community-based organizations to community-owned and community-managed organizations (COMOs).

Community Voluntary Counseling Centers

In 2003, Siaap facilitated sangams (community-owned-and-managed organizations Siaap supports) to set up Community Voluntary Counselling Centers (CVCC). This was made possible through providing training to community counsellors who were selected from among sangam members. Our work with communities strengthened our conviction that community members made good counsellors because of their life experience and open attitude. It was also felt that they would be able to provide quality services to their communities at their doorstep.

Early diagnosis will be possible through CVCCs as vulnerable communities hesitate to access public health services. It also helps shortcut these communities to care (ART) as strong referral links exist with the public health facilities. As of now, there are 9 functional COMO CVCCs in place catering to their communities as well as the general populations. In most cases owing to the credibility of the sangams, the panchayats have come forward to offer space for counselling.  Community counsellors have shown tremendous initiative by offering these services on a voluntary basis.

Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria

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.

Sensitizing the Media on MSM (Men Having Sex with Men) and FSW (Female Sex Workers) in Tamil Nadu

Objectives:

  • To reduce stigma and discrimination of MSM and WSS through positive portrayal in the media.
  • To sensitize media persons to adverse psychological impact of negative portrayal of MSM and WSS

Introduction:

The earlier negative portrayal of MSM and FSW in the context of their profession, sexuality, sexual preference and HIV/AIDS in the media has left indelible scars and continues to negatively impact current HIV/AIDS discourse. The words “Men having Sex with Men (MSM)” and “Female Sex Workers” (FSW) have become synonyms for “HIV transmission” leading to increased stigma and discrimination through the topics reported, and the ways in which they are portrayed. Confidentiality and freedom is restricted by such reporting, and their sexual behavior is regularly labeled as “unnatural” and “abhorrent to traditional Tamil cultural value systems,” legitimating the popular view that MSM and FSW are in fact abhorrent groups. This furthers their already stigmatized social status.

Thrift and Credit (TC) Societies enable communities to design and manage mutual financial services helping them to become more self-reliant. For communities vulnerable to HIV, they provide an opportunity for marginalized groups to lead and influence their larger community.

TCs are cooperatives in which members regularly deposit a fixed amount of savings with compound interest (decided by the community members), which then becomes available to the members as loans with easy repayment schedules. A management team from the community is elected to record each member’s savings, credit, and the amounts accumulated. Such loans are taken for children’s education, marriages of their siblings/children, household repairs, and other necessities.

Siaap’s TC program started in 2000 when it was observed that the MSM and women selling sex Siaap was working with were not saving their earnings and didn’t know how to keep accounts. Initially, groups were formed around the sangams (community-owned-and-managed organizations Siaap supports), focusing on the agenda of economically empowering the community and reducing their exploitation by the local moneylenders. But the success was limited since the TC members were scattered.  (For want of anonymity, normally women in sex work and MSM do not work in the same place they reside). The recovery from both women and MSM who borrowed posed a greater challenge.

SIAAP offers a range of training courses that teach people working in HIV prevention and care programmes (community members, counsellors, hospitals, NGOs, and government agencies) to address the complex causes and consequences of HIV, covering such topics as:

  • Communication
  • Sexuality
  • Human rights
  • Relationships
  • Gender
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Counselling
  • Reproductive health
  • Community Interventions
  • Relationships
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Planning of community-based interventions
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