“The test was positive. As a pregnant woman, I was rejected by my doctor and the hospital staff yet a new life was born. People living with HIV need the blessings of faith leaders as this sends a powerful message to others that HIV positives should not be discriminated against.”
– An HIV victim from Bangalore who we came across during our awareness drives
As per WHO, there are 2.4 million HIV positive people in India. In a country where poverty, illiteracy and poor health are rife, the spread of HIV presents a daunting challenge. The bigger challenge however is fighting the stigma and discrimination against those inflicted with the disease.
While there are many organisations that provide medical assistance yet very few work at the grassroots to fight the disease at level of the body and the mind. The Art of Living has organised youth workshops, awareness programs in rural and urban India, held international conferences and has set up forums to reach out to those affected.
Joining hands with multiple NGOs, and UN agencies, we have come up with innovative measures like building consensus amongst faith leaders to canvass for the inflicted. So far, over 500 faith leaders have pledged to fight the stigma by reaching out to millions of their followers.
Our impact is exemplified by the fact that diverse stakeholders have come forward to fight HIV. From international organisations like UNAIDS, NACO, WAYE, INERELA to religious leaders, and faith based organisations – we were able to build consensus for enhanced understanding of the disease.
The project has successfully empowered the patients so that they can live positively, live out loud and contribute to the society as well.
How does the journey look so far?
Faith in Action
conferences in 2006 and 2010 bringing together more than 500 prominent religious functionaries
HIV/AIDS Awareness for Rural Adolescents – Reached out to 945 rural women in the Cuddappah district of Andhra Pradesh
Special awareness programs
Conducted among adolescents covering 60 villages in Bagalkot District in Karnataka
World AIDS Day
observed by direct support of WBSAPCS (West Bengal State AIDS Prevention and Control Society, India) in 2006
Working Group Meeting
to assess and understand how different religious scriptures approach the patient care - May 2011
How did we work?
The underlying idea was to bring people together from all stratas of society for a social change. The working strategy was partnership with various national and international organisations. We unified various stakeholders and built a strong consensus to fight the stigma.
Further, we worked at ground level by sensitizing and empowering individuals through outreach programs. These individuals then became instrumental in spreading the change.
What did we learn?
A more consolidated and concerted effort is required to completely eradicate the stigma against people going through HIV-AIDS.
How can you contribute?
India has the third largest population of HIV inflicted individuals. Collaborations can help us to reach out to a wider population of these individuals.