“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change”-Wave of change
Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the entire nation has been under lockdown since 23 March 2020. As per the government guidelines, both at the center and state level, citizens were asked to stay at home to break the coronavirus chain and interrupt transmission. Numerous measures were taken by the administration to restrict the numbers of people on the road, in markets, and within common public places. The lockdown has not been easy for many people. In particular, it has impacted marginalized communities such as transgender (TG) adversely. The community largely depends on daily earnings (their earning is from dancing during auspicious occasions, begging/badhai in public places, and sex work), all of which have ceased because of the lockdown. The situation becomes worse for transgender living with HIV to access the medicine as well as take care of their supply of ration without any earning.
The Vihaan Care and support programme of Alliance India has set up 10 TG specific care & support centers in 9 states to cater to the TG PLHIV (People Living with HIV) community. All 10 TG CSC’s has been led by the community-based organization. The TG CSCs are working closely with communities to ensure that all community members have sufficient supply of ART medication.
To ensure a sufficient supply of drugs in Mumbai, Outreach Workers (ORW) and Peer counsellors of TG CSC collect green book (ART registration booklet) from PLHIV, go to ART Centres and collect medicine on their behalf and deliver medicines at their home. They have also mobilized food rations for needy community members who do not have any means of earning. The CSC is also linking TG PLHIV with local NGOs for any minor health care needs as most hospitals in Mumbai have been designated as COVID-19 facilities.
The Delhi TG CSC has mobilized ration with support of local Gurudwara (Sikh place of worship) and is distributing among needy community members. In Tamil Nadu, ORWs along with TG community members are also taking care of sex workers in the Vellore district. In Odisha, the TG CSC has been able to mobilize food rations for 950 people, while in Telangana, the TG CSC with support from the district administration distributed ration kits to 412 people.
Along with the drug delivery and ration supply, the TG CSC has linked community members with National Skill Development Corporation for direct cash transfer of Rs. 1500 to their respective bank accounts as part of COVID relief measure. CSCs have also taken the responsibility to spread awareness among TG community members on social distancing, use of masks, hand washing, and other hygiene measures related to their daily living.
However, life is not so easy for every community member. A PLHIV transgender, Ms Lalita (named changed due to confidentiality) from South 24 Pargana in West Bengal was not allowed to enter her room by the landlord as she had gone to get food rations during the lockdown.
She was running out of supplies for the month. Hence, on 10th April, she called one of her friends and asked for help. Her friend agreed and asked her to come to her place to accompany her to the supply point. When Lalita came back home, she found that the door of her room was locked by another padlock. The landlord did not allow her to enter the premise. Lalita explained to the landlord that she has followed social distancing but he did not listen to her. She was not even allowed to use the toilet. Lalita started crying and pleading before the landlord to allow her to go inside. The landlord did not pay heed at all. Lalita had to sit outside her room for 8 to 10 hours. She reported this incident to TG CSC. The TG CSC
Project Director Dr. Santosh Kumar Giri took her to hospital and after doctor certified that she does not have any symptoms of COVID -19. She was later allowed to enter her house with the help of local police. Thankfully the issue has been resolved and she is staying in the same house.
Each transgender individual has a unique challenge during the present lockdown but frontline workers of Alliance India in the field are doing their best to help each one.
Till 11th May, 3053 Transgender people were provided telephonic counselling on COVID-19. 640 Transgender People Living with HIV were provided telephonic counselling on antiretroviral treatment (ART) adherence. 517 Transgender people Living with HIV proactively collected their antiretroviral medication from the nearest location of distribution. 243 Transgender people living with HIV received home delivery of antiretroviral medication. 3053 Transgender people Living with HIV accessed food supplies distributed by various local partners and financial assistance provided by the state welfare schemes.