Knocking on slum doors for
AIDS awareness, testing
By Shweta Srinivasan
Delhi, Dec 10 (IANS) The narrow alleyways that serve as kitchens,
playgrounds and open drains all at once are unusually quiet.
Gulping down fears, a few expectant mothers and adolescents
walk in and out of the single room HIV-AIDS testing centre
set up at a small gurdwara in the heart of a shanty town in
few young children totter around the area, wanting to peek
into the makeshift ward. Other women maintain a palatable
distance, sitting on cots and gossiping about neighbours entering
the centre. This was the scene in the Kalyanpuri area where
NGO Soubhagya organised an AIDS testing and awareness camp
last week along with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).
should be carried out here - in areas most susceptible, not
in large clinics where only the rich can access them. These
people living in unhygienic conditions, where there is a migrant
population ... they need to be counselled and shown the advantage
of getting tested," said Amod Dalela, chief operative
officer of Soubhagya.
of the centre, wearing red T-shirts and campaign-specific
caps, walk around the colony with a mission. They enter houses
and try to convince women, adolescents and anyone who listens
to come to the centre and get tested.
is free. When a person comes in, we first give them a brief
about HIV and AIDS and how the virus actually spreads. We
ensure they understand every aspect from condom usage to blood
transfusion - to try to remove the myths associated with HIV
and its transmission. People here have a very vague idea,"
said a volunteer at the centre.
also explain how their anonymity is a priority," she
person is then taken to a corner of the room partitioned by
a loosely hung bed sheet, where another volunteer takes a
blood sample and fills out a general form with clinical information.
test results come from a special clinic in south Delhi. In
case someone is infected, we give them all precautionary information,
even free medicines and other treatment in some cases. The
patient is again counselled and care is taken to inform him
that the disease is not fatal and can be dealt with with adequate
precaution and medicine," said Kamini, Soubhagya's project
35-year old pregnant woman, who had been unwell for some time,
bolstered up courage to enter the testing centre with her
three kids in tow.
many days, two volunteers had been doing the rounds in her
girl came to me this morning and explained that the infection
could have reached me for no fault of my own - through unclean
needles or unhygienic conditions when I gave birth. So I decided
to come here, because I don't want my ignorance to affect
the future of my children," she said.
testing centre is one of the two set up in the area by Soubhagya
in partnership with AHF. The foundation based in Los Angeles
had aimed at completing 50,000 tests in India and one million
globally by Dec 7 under the 'One Million HIV Tests' campaign.
centres in the Narela Industrial Area, one each in Shastri
Park, Paschim Vihar, Geeta Colony and Nizamuddin, two in Trilokpuri
and Seemapuri, and one in Jesus Mary College were set up in
partnership with other NGOs to take mobile testing "directly
to the people".
to Dalela, about 100-150 people turned up at the testing centres
set up in these localities for around 10 days.
had kicked off its mobile HIV testing initiative (Ehsas) in
India in March and has conducted tests in various cities.
Chinkholal Thangsing, Asia Pacific bureau chief of AHF: "We
can no longer wait for people to take themselves to inaccessible
voluntary, counselling and testing (VCT) centres. We have
to find ways to bring testing to the people - where they are,
where they work and where they live.
must scale up testing and knock down the barriers that are
allowing preventable virus transmissions and deaths."
number of AIDS cases in New Delhi rose from 498 in 2000 to
5,082 in 2007, presenting a serious challenge, according to
33 million people living with HIV/AIDS in India and only three
million on treatment, there is a global crisis that could
not be ignored," Dalela said.