The lives of Dharani, 14, and Nagadevi, 16, present a stark contrast. Both girls live in Andhra Pradesh and are affected by HIV, but Dharani is in school while Nagadevi is a new mother living with HIV.
Dharani knows that her mother is HIV-positive and if neighbours find out, her family will be ostracized. Fortunately her mother is a confident woman who knows that with treatment and the right kind of support she will lead a full life. She even serves as a counselor for young women living with HIV in her area.
On the other hand, Nagadevi was married young to a much older man and found out she is HIV-positive at 16 after she gave birth to her child who is also infected. Distraught and isolated, Nagadevi is only just learning to grapple with the seriousness of this infection. She is on ART now thanks to the support and counselling outreach workers have provided. She knows that if she had only been tested during her pregnancy, the transmission of HIV to her child could have been prevented. Her experience in not unique. India’s National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) estimates that 57,000 children are infected at birth in India every year.
In partnership with UNICEF, India HIV/AIDS Alliance has started Udaya, a pilot project undertaken in selected districts of Andhra Pradesh and Telengana to improve access to HIV testing among pregnant women. As part of this project, existing Vihaan Care and Support Centres (CSCs) are supported to educate, motivate and counsel young pregnant women and their families on the importance of testing during pregnancy. The project is also working with those who test positive to ensure that they understand how to prevent HIV transmission to their child during birth and get access to lifelong antiretroviral treatment.
As Udaya has progressed, we have found significant gaps in service access by adolescents. To help fill this gap, we have joined the Global Giving Gateway Challenge to raise funding to expand our reach in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra with quality care and support services for HIV-positive adolescents.
Our project encourages health-seeking behaviour among HIV-positive adolescents and increases their social wellbeing by providing them livelihood opportunities. In the longer term, this project will help reduce AIDS-related mortality among adolescents and develop new programme models to reach this vulnerable population that can be scaled up across India.
Please join this effort by donating today through Global Giving. Thank you for your support.
The author of this post, Shamnu Rao, is a Programme Officer with India HIV/AIDS Alliance in New Delhi.
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