The life of someone living with HIV in India today is better compared with a few years ago, thanks to improved healthcare, provision of antiretrovirals (ARVs) and treatment for infections.
People are living longer and healthier lives, but stigma and discrimination remain an issue in communities and within healthcare facilities. It is definitely worse for female sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM, men who do not identify as homosexual or gay and are almost always married), transgendered people and hijras living with HIV. There is a real need to address the attitudes of healthcare providers and the rampant stigma against these people. It particularly hampers their access to treatment.
Many people with HIV live far from their nearest ARV centre. The distance, time and money required to access treatment, and the fact that the services are not tailored to meet the needs of the communities, are huge challenges. Also, there’s virtually nothing in terms of psychosocial support for those living with HIV.
As an MSM living with HIV, I face challenges to access healthcare and feel that I don’t have the same opportunities or social status as others. There is a lack of work opportunities for MSM, transgendered people and hijras living with HIV, which makes them more vulnerable and sometimes leads them to into sex work. Lack of work makes them feel even more isolated and worthless which can create mental health issues.
Meeting the goal of MDG6 is a big challenge in India, though we have made progress. India has successfully started developing strategies with active community involvement and participation. HIV incidence in some states has also started declining, according to the limited data we have.
Political and donor commitment is crucial. The goal of the national programme to halt and reverse the epidemic is far from achieved.
The contribution from the international community (donors, governments, foundations and civil society partners) has helped India in different ways to control the epidemic. At this crucial juncture, the international community needs to continue to support programmes for prevention as well as care and support for those living with HIV.
The international community can also contribute to the Indian response through policy and advocacy, and constant monitoring to ensure that the human rights of those affected by the epidemic are being adequately protected.
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