In India, HIV incidence is significantly higher among criminalised and marginalised groups such as sex workers, transgender people, men who have sex with men (MSM), and people who use drugs (PWUD). Almost 289,500 MSM are living with HIV in India, which equated to 4.3% of the MSM population in 2015.
Attempts to protect the rights of marginalised groups have resulted in both successes and failures. Although transgender people and hijras were officially recognised as the ‘third gender’ in 2014, homosexuality had been re-criminalised just a few months earlier in late 2013 leading to an increase in violence, verbal abuse and discrimination against LGBT Indians. In 2016, the right to gender identification for transgender people was effectively eliminated by the 2016 Transgender Bill which prevents members of this population identifying as male or female.
In this difficult context, India HIV/AIDS Alliance implemented the largest single-country Global Fund programme working with MSM and transgender communities, the Pehchan programme. Pehchan means ‘identity’ or ‘recognition’ in Hindi. Pehchan developed the capacity of over 200 community-based organisations to deliver HIV prevention information and support for MSM, transgender people and hijras in 17 states across India. India HIV/AIDS Alliance has documented the successes and challenges of the Pehchan programme in a peer-reviewed article.
With support from the Global Fund, India HIV/AIDS Alliance also runs the Vihaan programme in collaboration with the Indian Department of AIDS Control. Vihaan, a Sanskrit word for ‘dawn’s first light’, is a national initiative to establish and manage 350 Care & Support Centres in 31 states and territories to improve the quality of life of people living with HIV in India. These centres expand access to essential services, increasing treatment adherence, reducing stigma and discrimination, and linking beneficiaries to social protection mechanisms.
India HIV/AIDS Alliance also delivers other programmes supporting harm reduction for people who use drugs; building the capacity of the drug users’ forum; increasing the family support for PWUD to access and stay in harm reduction services; and expanding access to sexual and reproductive health services for PWUD and their partners.
One of our largest Linking Organisations, India HIV/AIDS Alliance provided over 1.1 million adults, adolescents and children with HIV treatment, care and support in 2016. Almost 78,000 people from marginalised groups were reached with HIV prevention activities that year.