RED International’s partner, AIDSLink Nepal is working in Kathmandu and surrounding villages helping people living with HIV regain hope and dignity by; improving access to medical treatment including antiretroviral therapy (ART), receive counselling, and become empowered through increased knowledge and understanding.
At the beginning of 2015 there were an estimated 39,000 people living with HIV, an adult prevalence rate of 0.2%. HIV remains concentrated among people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers (male and female) and male labour migrants, including their spouses (UNAIDS 2015). Many of those who are in sex work have been forced because of poverty and desperation, or are victims of human trafficking. An estimated 234,600 people are in modern slavery, 0.82% of Nepal’s population (The Global Slavery Index 2016).
By the end of 2014 there were 10,407 people on ART but an alarming 73.5% of those eligible for treatment were not receiving it (UNAIDS 2015).
Access to HIV testing and ART continues to be a challenge for those who live in villages outside the capital city Kathmandu. Once tested positive for HIV, a person needs to visit the city hospital to begin treatment, which involves making a long and expensive journey. Additionally the protocol for beginning HIV medication requires a two-week supervision period. For many this is not possible because of the time and cost involved. For those who do manage to travel, often they do not have sufficient finances to find accommodation and therefore end up sleeping in slum like conditions, further compromising their already fragile health.
These are various ways AIDSLink Nepal seek to support the communities they work in:
Asha Diep (Light and Hope) Care CentreFrom 2011, AIDSLink Nepal has been operating the Asha Deep (Hope & Light) Crisis Care Centre. This is a safe and clean place for people to stay when they travel to Kathmandu to access HIV testing, medical services, and ART at the Government hospital. Whilst at the centre, clients have access to free services such as; HIV specific counselling, healthy food, advice about living with HIV, support with medication adherence and help with getting to and from the hospital for tests, results and medication. Centre staff strive to create a peaceful environment for clients to rest and recuperate. This is particularly important for those struggling physically, with side effects from medication, and with the emotional impact of their situation and diagnosis. The team also provide personal care if needed and peer support. When their health improves, clients return home until they next need to visit the hospital.
Home & Hospital VisitsThe AIDSLink team has a strong working partnership with the Government hospital in Kathmandu, giving the team permission to visit patients and offer bedside counselling and physical care, explain reports and give advice on positive living (healthy eating etc.). Stigma towards people living with HIV remains high and because of this villagers often travel alone to access services. Once arrived, many become confused or lost and are in need of someone to come alongside them to help navigate the health system, lobby for medication and explain what Government services are available. The team are often contacted by the hospital to visit and support people living with HIV. Each month home visits are also conducted where the team offers personal care and support; they assess the family situation, give health education including Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT), advice on nutrition and encourage attendance to the hospital for blood tests and check-ups. The team is committed to following up clients either via telephone or by home visit. This is important for ensuring people living with HIV receive ongoing care, to follow up on their wellbeing and any needs, to encourage medication adherence and the maintenance of a healthy balanced diet. AIDSLink Nepal currently have 650 people on their caseload, 350 are actively receiving input, the remainder are doing well, established on treatment and not regularly needing help.
Support GroupsPeople living with HIV and their families are encouraged to attend a monthly support group held in Kathmandu for teaching and encouragement. Topics covered include; information on PMTCT, health education, and advice on positive living. Support is given to those who attend and counselling is also available. This is especially valuable for those who are experiencing stigma and rejection and are in need of practical help. In addition to the monthly group, the team organises special programmes which includes an annual picnic, a monthly family day with games and a Christmas celebration.
HIV AwarenessAIDSLink Nepal works through local churches and other community groups to deliver HIV awareness and prevention workshops and open air meetings, distribute Nepali education literature to raises awareness about HIV, combat stigma, and educate villagers on prevention, and provide support to HIV affected communities.
Child SponsorshipThe children of HIV affected families can access educational funds to stay in school through a sponsorship programme. This helps parents to pay school fees on time, buy school supplies and uniforms for their children. The team are able to monitor the physical and emotional health of the children via the support group meetings and home visits, where psycho-social support is given. There are currently 35 children enrolled on the program.
People living with HIV will be connected to HIV services, to include treatment, so to improve life expectancy and quality. Through accessing ongoing support from the care centre, home and hospital visits and the support group, people living with HIV will receive love and care, impacting their knowledge, their confidence and ability to adhere to medication and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
The local community and the support network of people living with HIV will also have increased understanding of HIV impacting stigma and discrimination.
*The HIV status of those photographed is unknown
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