Koraput has the third highest incidence of HIV infection in the state of Odisha.
As an industry hub located along the highway, many migrant workers and truck drivers come to Koraput, bringing a high demand for commercial sex. Although there is a lack of testing centers, the number of people infected with HIV in Koraput is said to exceed 5,000 over the last 5 years. These conditions put Koraput at a high risk for the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.
Our program runs the gamut from awareness building to treatment to advocacy. We target high risk groups like rural adolescents, school dropouts, and truck drivers to encourage prevention. We provide counseling and livelihood support to people living with HIV/AIDS and help them advocate for their rights. In addition, we devise strategies to tackle the stigma and discrimination that is rampant in the region.
Peer Education: Studies show that young people seek information on sex primarily from their peers and hold onto those beliefs and misconceptions. In lieu of this, we designed our program around the use of peers as a strategy for building awareness on HIV/AIDS and promoting behavioral change.
We identify village adolescents, college students, and truck drivers who have leadership qualities and can spare time to become peer educators. We train them on the basics of HIV/AIDS, sexual health, anatomy and hygiene. The peer educators are also trained in communication, decision making, confidence building, and negotiation so they can effectively teach others what they have learned.
The peer educators then disseminate the information, often to hundreds of peers and villagers, and modify their own behavior to act as role models. We help create “Balaka Mandals”, groups of village adolescents who discuss issues with the peer educators and spread the message to the rest of the community.
Since the program started, 1,200 school dropouts have become peer educators and have helped train over 7,000 adolescents on HIV/AIDS and sexual health.
Awareness & Prevention: Focusing exclusively on “high risk” groups for HIV would fail to address the risks to the larger population, notably wives of men with multiple sex partners.
Women’s Orientation: We sensitize village women and sex workers on HIV/AIDS issues.
Education: We have educational stalls at weekly markets, highly visible wall paintings, cultural theatre troupes and youth recreation centers that ensure the availability and reach of appropriate information on the causes and prevention of HIV/AIDS.
We educate HIV+ people on their government entitlements and urge them to access available and affordable care.
Advocacy: We help HIV/AIDS positive advocate for their rights and provide direct support to the Koraput Network for Positive People (KNP+).