All Participants in India Consultation 20-30 September 2022

Human Touch Foundation in India

The sole presence of young people and adolescents changed the mood of the entire group,” said Gracia Ross, programme executive for WCC Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy. In this case, young people worked with others to develop strategies and activities, and they prioritized prevention of sexual abuse as a direct means to prevent HIV,” said Ross.

Young people also shared ideas for capacity building, particularly for writing funding proposals and connecting with potential donors. They also asked for a map of all the existing youth organizations and platforms to start networking among young people,” shared Ross. Young people have so many issues that expose them to HIV—including violence, mental health, and lack of employment opportunities.”

For some time before the consultation; India had problems with stock-outs of HIV medications. Can you imagine?” said Ross, expressing her surprise. India is called the pharmacy of the world!’ ”

Most developing countries with Global Fund grants purchase generic medications produced in India—Ross herself has used those medications since 2005. It is so difficult to understand how HIV medications and means of prevention as condoms and treatment for sexually transited infections are on stock-out in countries the size of India,” she said. I have just asked the people of the consultation if the stock-out problem has been solved for now—and it has not.”

People living with HIV in Goa used to collect their HIV medications every three months—now they have to go to health centres every month, because of the stock-out. With lacking HIV medications, viral load will go up and therefore, the possibility of new infections increases,” said Ross. This cannot happen in a country like India.”

Ross, an anthropologist living with HIV, was also struck by how caste and class intersections really complicate the situation for people living with HIV, and for affected communities who are already living in the margins.

The situation of the northeast area of India is even more complex, because they face other issues that are related to political conflict and ethnic differences,” said Ross. They asked the World Council of Churches and UNAIDS to replicate the consultation in that region because their needs are so particular.”

A panel of ten religious leaders each spoke for three minutes, sharing what they are already doing related to HIV response. “The advocates were amazed to see the extensive work of faith-based organizations, from running local clinics, to working with orphans and vulnerable children, to providing food support for people living with HIV, and even working with people who use drugs and do sex work,” said Ross. “We realized we are more similar than what we thought.”

The participants also decided to issue a “call to action” that outlines what they see as priorities.

In fact, India has the tools to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, Ross insisted, but self-testing and prophylaxis must be scaled up soon.

The HIV epidemic in India nowadays is fueling in the social and economic inequalities and that will bring a challenge for ending HIV and AIDS,” said Ross. The title we put to the consultation—‘AIDS back in the agenda’—was meant to be provocative in order to ask the question: is AIDS really over?”

According to the participants, it is not over—and it is a concern when people are not willing to talk about it anymore. HIV is likely to stay for a long period,” said Ross. The question is if our local commitment can match the challenge.”



Human Touch Foundation in India

Health and Healing

Faith on the Fast Track HIV Campaign