UNODC is cosponsor of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS - UNAIDS
International Donors from SIDA and AusAID Visit Guwahati, Assam on 22 April 2008
Contributed by Pushkar Singh, North East Coordinator, UNODC ROSA (Shillong-based)
Ms. Nadira at the ART Centre
Mr. Carl-G. Svensson, Counselor, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and Nadira Mailewa, Manager, Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), undertook field visits to three locations in Guwahati, Assam on 22 April 2008. The focus of both the agencies is to help developing countries reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development.
The purpose of their visit Guwahati was to assess the HIV/AIDS situation and also understand the local challenges. This visit provided an opportunity for the civil society to highlight the issue of further assistance from Donor agencies to contain and reverse the epidemic of HIV/AIDS. They were accompanied by Mr. Gopen Moses, Programme Officer and Dr. Pushkar Singh, Northeast Coordinator, UNODC.
They visited Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) Centre at the Guwahati Medical College, Female Sex Worker (FSW) site of the Assam AIDS prevention Society and the office of the INP+ (Indian Network of Positive people).
Field visit to FSW site
Their visit to the ART Centre gave them an insight on the number of clients accessing the service and also the need for second line treatment. The Donors also visited the Integrated Counselling and Testing centres (ICTC) for antenatal cases and general patients. The visitors were impressed to see how well the ART centre was managed.
At the FSW site, they had a focused group discussion with 12 FSWs. The visit highlighted the growing problem of commercial sex work (CSW) in Guwahati city. The Donors gained an insight into the existing factors such as poverty, lack of employment, human trafficking, which resulted in the trade flourishing in the major slums of Guwahati besides the urban areas. In the light of ignorance and lack of appropriate services coupled with prevailing high level of stigma and discrimination, CSW poses as the most vulnerable agent of HIV transmission in the region. This visit was facilitated by a team from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Aids Prevention Society (APS).
Ms. Nadira, Carl-G, Svensson along with Dr. Pushkar Singh
Ms. Nandini Kapoor from UNAIDS joined the visitors during their meeting with members from Assam Network of Positive People (ANP+) The meeting was arranged to understand the ground realities and issues for those living with the virus some of the participants were also covered under the Mothers Groups initiatives supported through SIDA funds. An extensive interaction with the positive women men and children gave them an understanding of problems such as the need for second-line drugs for some people living with HIV (PLHIV) and a livelihood programme for those infected and affected. The members also shared the prevailing level of stigma and discrimination for PLHIV women and narrated incidents where their children were refused admissions to schools due to their HIV+ status.
In a separate meeting at the NACO Regional Office a review of the support from AusAID and SIDA was conducted with Mr. Svensson and Ms. Mailewa. Mr. Arun Monga appreciated the support from the donors and said that the Northeast NACO Regional Office is the first Regional Office for NACO and will serve as a model for the rest of the country. A detailed discussion was held on various aspects of the project and Mr. G Svensson and Ms. Mailewa in their closing remarks expressed their appreciation for NACO, the Northeast States, UN and the strong partnership between the agencies. They noted that this visit gave them an opportunity to look at the problems from close quarters and understand the local challenges.