Injecting Hope

by | 1 Comment | Tags: , , , , | on Mar26 2010


Lokesh’s enthusiastic chatter and Sathya’s vivacity will hoodwink you into believing that this is your average summer camp for kids. But Lokesh and Sathya are just two of the 1 million plus HIV positive children in India (according to WHO estimates). Thanks to the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society’s (TANSACS) strong intervention in care and support for HIV positive families in the state, children like Lokesh and Sathya are able to live a normal life and attend school, and their families are able to make a decent living. “Tamil Nadu Family Care and Continuum Programme (TNFCC) was launched in 2005, and since then has gone a long way in not just administering medicines and necessary physiological care to far flung districts, but has also planted the seed of hope in more than 9,000 families,” says L.Ramakrishnan, Country Director of SAATHII, an NGO based in Chennai that is affiliated to the programme.

The programme is indeed unique; its multi-level style of functioning and its various features have ensured transparency and accountability in its implementation. The children’s camp is one of its sub-initiatives, where children who are HIV positive themselves, or whose parents are infected, attend a 3-day workshop. It includes organised and unorganised sessions in singing, dancing, debate and much more. “This year, we even had a lawyer who came and held a child rights’ workshop. Children were also taught folk dances and songs by indigenous folk artists,” says Ramakrishnan.

Apart from the yearly camps, counselors visit these homes once in every few weeks and provide educational and psycho-social support to infected and affected kids. “Children are more challenging than adults. It is a task to explain their situation to them, and then get them to understand how to deal with it. It has taken me two to three visits to some houses, just to build a rapport and gain their trust,” says Shanthi, a counselor in the Salem district.

Apart from these personal visits, monthly support forums for children are also organized. Life Skills Education is a module for older children above the age of 8 that touches upon aspects of communication, leadership skills and interpersonal relationships. “This is highly effective, as it acts as a support group for children to come together and exchange thoughts and feelings,” opines Shanthi. As part of this support forum, interactive discussions on sexuality, health, gender equality and hygiene are also held. Children are empowered to practice safe sexual behavioural patterns, and taught to apply critical thinking and problem solving skills in real life situations.

Another unique aspect of the TNFCC programme is the livelihood support initiative for HIV positive adults. Under this initiative, adults are provided basic seed capital to start their own small venture. After an initial situational research that investigates local economics and explores business possibilities, a business proposition is offered to candidates. Upon agreement and acceptance, monetary and other aid is given for the same. “I was given Rs. 4,000 to set up an idli stall, and now, my family and I are able to live a life of dignity thanks to the profit of Rs. 300 that I make from the stall,” says Kumari of Thirunelveli district. The runaway success of Kumari’s business has enabled her to send her son to school, feed her family, and let them all live in decent lodgings. Moreover, it has helped her shed her inhibitions as a nervous worker who was afraid of the stigma her health condition gave her, and has transformed her into a self confident entrepreneur.

This social and psychological care is what sets TNFCC apart from its counterparts in other states. Thousands of HIV positive lives across the state are being transformed by an army of outreach workers. These workers, along with the counselors and facilitators, facilitate social and psychological change among the infected and affected.. Today, it is possible for Lokesh and Sathya to pursue their dreams of becoming a doctor and teacher respectively, thanks to the political and administrative will of Tamil Nadu.

Photo Courtesy: made2serve

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1 comment

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