Unchain me!

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Story of Babi from Seelampur (North-East Delhi)

Babi, an 18 year old girl, lives with her family in the streets of North-East Delhi. Since Babi was a toddler, she has been picking rags along with the parents and other siblings. Since a year or two, she gave into peer influence and started sniffing glue (dendrite) for a cheap high and gradually developed the habit of taking drugs orally and also through injection. Babi was usually a quiet girl, but once she started to indulge excessively in drug use, she became bubbly and started acting strangely. Babi also had sexual encounter with male injecting drug users (IDUs) in exchange of drugs. She also started to disappear from home for weeks and without information to her parents.

Surprised by her mood swings, Babi’s mother intervened to understand her daughter’s behaviour and eventually found out that Babi was injecting drugs. The outreach workers (ORWs) of WINGS project met her early morning at one of the hotspots where she was injecting drugs. The first time she was approached by one of the ORW, Babi was quite reluctant to even speak with the ORW, but after several meetings the ORW of WINGS project was successful in enrolling her in the WINGS intervention. Babi started to visit the WINGS drop-in centre (DIC) on regular basis. She shared during one session that she and her two friends usually share one needle and syringe as they cannot afford to buy more than one. She also shared one incident where 3 of her friends and one male IDU shared the same needle and syringe. Looking at her high risk behaviour, the WINGS staff counselled her to go for HIV testing and TB testing since she had been continuously coughing for many days and was also loosing weight day by day.

With mutual agreement, it was decided that Babi would accompany an ORW and would visit the ICTC (Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre) for HIV testing where she would also be tested for other infections. Babi always used to meet the ORWs in the same hotspot but when the day came to go the hospital she did not turn up. The ORWs struggled to find the location where she lived. Finally, the WINGS team found her place and were shocked to know that her parents had kept her chained in one corner of the hut. She was in pain due to withdrawal symptoms that she was experiencing as she had not taken drugs since morning.

It was not an easy task for WINGS team to convince Babi’s parents to unchain her and let them take her to the hospital. The WINGS team had to provide a lot of counselling to let Babi visit WINGS DIC and undergo testing for diagnosis and treatment. The test result from the ICTC centre found that Babi was HIV positive and also HEP C positive. Now she is linked with the ART centre and will soon be referred to the nearest OST (Opioid Substitution Treatment) centre.

Never losing hope, WINGS team at the field is determined to improve the quality of life of many girls like Babi.

The writer of the blog, Pemu Bhutia, is a senior technical officer at Alliance India.

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