Community Catalysts: Pehchan Counselors Transform Lives

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Outreach workers and counselors in our Global Fund-supported Pehchan programme play an invaluable and often transformational role for the MSM, transgender and hijra community members they serve. Not only do they ensure that at-risk community members receive the support they need but they also provide services to others in the community such as counseling for family members that can significantly contribute a community member’s health and wellbeing.

This is exactly what happened in the case of Sumant (name changed), a married MSM living in Gujarat. He had been experiencing weakness and dizziness, the severity of which made it difficult for him to function in his daily life. The counselor at the nearby Pehchan partner, a local community-based organization (CBO) for MSM and transgenders, tried to discuss how Sumant’s HIV status might be contributing to his health situation but was met with a great deal of denial and resistance. Finally, after a lengthy discussion during the counseling session, Sumant agreed to get tested at the nearest Integrated Counseling and Testing Centre (ICTC).

Sumant’s test was positive, and in a subsequent examination, the doctor advised him be immediately hospitalized since he had found Sumant to be in urgent need of medical attention and should not delay initiative of antiretroviral therapy. Members of the CBO team even stayed with Sumant in the hospital since he had not yet disclosed his HIV status to his family and felt completely alone.

After five days of hospitalization, Sumant was discharged. He gave consent for the CBO team to counsel his wife and son. When the CBO members visited, they discussed Sumant’s HIV status with his family who accepted the news and were quite reassuring. With the support of his family and the Pehchan team, Sumant has stayed healthy and continues to show a marked improvement in his mental and physical health.

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The author of this blog, Ankita Bhalla, is Communications Associate at India HIV/AIDS Alliance in New Delhi.

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