Selvi, an HIV positive sex worker was one of the first people to come out and be vocal about the problems and discrimination HIV positive people face. She worked with SIAAP and was outspoken during the meetings they conducted. After her death, her friend Mary Thomas aka Meera took up the cause. About a decade back the government hospital in Tambaram started treating HIV with ART. Since it was the only place in India providing medication for HIV they had a high demand for treatment. People visited from all over the country and it was difficult for patients to get consultations and admissions. The patients along with their families had to wait for days together to consult the doctor. If the patients were admitted the families had to wait for a week and didn’t have any place to stay and ended up on the platforms without any facilities.
Mary Thomas initiated the Selvi Memorial Illam Society in the year ____. It was kicked off with infrastructural support from SIAAP. Private donors (________) helped fund the operation. It was started in the neighbourhood around the Tambaram General Hospital. The objectives of the project were:
• To provide food, bathroom facilities and shelter for the patients and their caregivers
• To offer emotional support and counselling for the caregivers
The SMIS is an ongoing project. It was initiated as one shelter in Tambaram. They provided food and housing to HIV-infected and affected populations at affordable rates, or even for free. The counsellor in the home offered counselling services and emotional support to these individuals. There was no SIAAP team involved with this project.
Over the years, the home expanded into two homes in the Royapetah- Teynampet region. They expanded their concerns to include old people, destitute population and mentally ill individuals. These individuals are also working and take up shelter only at nights. SMIS works with the local police in identifying and bringing in the destitute people to the shelter. The residents stay at the shelter up to 6 months. Before then, SMIS tries to reintegrate them with their families or help them set up employment and livelihood opportunities for themselves.
The society faced problems within the community. The community protested against the housing of HIV positive individuals because they were scared of the risk of infection. SMIS started community-based psycho-education interventions to educate and spread awareness about HIV, its causes, transmission, treatment etc to overcome this challenge.
Currently, the shelter is being run in a tie-up with the Chennai Corporation. There are two homes- one for men and one for women. They house roughly 40 residents each.
(Current concerns & actions required)