Mentorship for Improved HIV Prevention in Key Populations

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Supported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), India HIV/AIDS Alliance’s Nirantar programme complements the existing national HIV program in helping to ensure quality prevention services in three target states: Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Odisha. Targeted Interventions (TIs) are the core prevention strategy for key populations, and they are being enhanced by Nirantar through focused advocacy and capacity building. The programme provides skill building to frontline workers with support from a trained resource pool that includes both community members from key populations and other experts.

Nirantar includes a significant mentorship component that leverages this resource pool to guide and build capacity of frontline TI staff. Outreach workers are provided handholding support along with formal classroom trainings to improve the quality and impact of their engagement with community members: motivating them to access services, encouraging safer sexual behavior and injecting practices, advocating with stakeholders, and sensitizing service providers.

Participants in Nirantar’s mentorship programme are chosen carefully.  Below are three examples of the dedicated men and women who are working as mentors to ensure the success of the programme.

  • Now a Nirantar mentor, Rohini Chhari earlier worked as a peer educator in a TI project in Morena district in Madhya Pradesh. Being a fast learner and an efficient community leader, she had a strong rapport with community members in the district. Her ability at outreach planning and her zeal towards her work helped her in starting an NGO aimed at healthcare and socio-economic empowerment of underprivileged women to enable them to become self-reliant.     
  • Sonali is a transgender activist and has set an example by leading from the front. She was part of the TI programme in Odisha and had worked as a peer educator. Today, she is a well-known community leader due to her work on advocacy with Police and sensitisation of other stakeholders. Sonali is president of an organization Shanti Sewa that works for transgender rights in Bhadrak district of Odisha. Her confidence in working with community members as well as different stakeholders is remarkable, and her knowledge of HIV and transgender rights made her an ideal candidate for the mentorship programme. 
  •  Harish Bharti is a person who injects drugs (PWID) and has been a part of the TI programme in Chhattisgarh, since 2012, first as a peer educator and then as an outreach worker. He took on these responsibilities even as he continued his studies. When he later pursued other career opportunities, he remained in touch with the TI and voluntarily provided his services. His sound technical knowledge in working with the drug-using community and his passion for this work have made him an effective mentor.


Rohini, Sonali and Harish are just a few of the Nirantar mentors who are working actively to use their expertise to promote wellbeing of key populations and improve HIV prevention outcomes through stronger community leadership and improved organisational capacity. Nirantar has pioneered TI mentoring to increase the utilization of available resources within the community as well as outside it by providing handholding support to peer educators and outreach workers. The programme also provides ongoing training for mentors and is working with government to identify opportunities to expand mentorship support to TIs in other states.

This blog was written by the Nirantar team at India HIV/AIDS Alliance in New Delhi. Named for the Hindi word meaning ‘relentless,’ Nirantar works in the underserved Indian states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Odisha to create enabling environments for vulnerable key populations (KPs), such as female sex workers (FSWs), men who have sex with men (MSM), transgenders, people who inject drugs (PWID) to improve HIV prevention outcomes.

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