In implementation since 2016 with support from Elton John AIDS Foundation, Samarth, (meaning competent) project provides community-led HIV screening and treatment linkages for men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender and hijra (TGH) population by ensuring confidential and sensitive dealing of various sexual health-related issues. Samarth community clinics are implemented through a consortium of five partners, Lakshya Trust, Sangama Trust, Amitie Trust, Udaan Trust and Shaan Foundation in seven cities: Noida (Delhi NCR), Jalandhar (Punjab), Vadodara (Gujarat), Hyderabad (Telangana), Hooghly (West Bengal), Hassan (Karnataka) and Pune (Maharashtra).
Samarth is the first community-based testing intervention implemented in India with the support of the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) for MSM and TGH population. The project works closely with NACO & State AIDS Control Societies. The project has helped the national programme to gather higher reactivity among MSM & TGH person, reach out to the new population, not yet served under targeted interventions, for prevention services and to increase health-seeking behaviour among them.
- The project developed a series of social media materials on benefits of early HIV testing and treatment linkages titled ‘Pata Lagao’ meaning ‘know your status’ resulting in increased HIV testing.
- Samarth community clinics were successful in mobilising new clients for HIV testing, almost 11080 new clients have been tested for the first time in the last three years. It found overall 2.9% (overall positivity including repeat testing – 3.3%) reactivity among the clients who tested for the first time – which is higher compared to annual targeted intervention testing data in those states. The project has also managed to connect 94% MSM & TGH clients for ARV support.
- Samarth supported National AIDS Research Centre (NARI) to conduct genotype study with TGH reactive persons to understand the vulnerabilities associated with new infection and ARV medication and behavioural assessment in Pune.
- The project also identified a new segment of the population who are higher in vulnerabilities for HIV which include young, aged 18-30, TGH person, married MSM, MSM working in men parlours and massage centres, MSM and TGH engaging in chemical sex and drug use. Samarth’s next phase will be based on further reaching to ‘hard to reach’ MSM & TGH person demonstrating higher vulnerabilities towards HIV infection.
Project Results (April 2018 to March 2019)
- 2604 New MSM & TGH clients were screened for HIV out of these 112 were identified reactive
- 10,692 MSM & TGH clients repeat tested, out of these 27 found reactive
- Out of 139 reactive clients, 116 could be linked with ART after confirmation test at ICTCs