Saturday, 15 May 2010

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Half this NGO’s staff is HIV-positive

Project Concern International has gone beyond talking about HIV/AIDS to helping affected people earn a living. Forty-five per cent of its staff is HIV-positive

A key concern of people who are HIV-positive is how to earn a sustainable living. Addressing this concern, the NGO Project Concern International (PCI) employs a large number of HIV-positive people. Indeed, around 45% of its staff is HIV-positive. 

PCI works in the field of HIV/AIDS. It monitors the health of some 100,000 HIV-positive people in five states -- Maharashtra, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Manipur -- and provides treatment and drugs.  

“While promoting a healthy lifestyle for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHAs), we wanted to absorb them in our projects,” says PCI director Dr Vikas Aggarwal.  

The organisation uses PLHAs in field work; they are trained to counsel PLHAs, share their experiences, and educate people about preventive methods.  

At present there are 88 peer educators working with PCI, at its Pune office. 

Dr Aggarwal stresses the need to provide employment to PLHAs. Many employers terminate the services of employees who are found to be HIV-positive. This leaves them with no hope and many contemplate suicide, he says. In addition to providing employment, PCI ensures that its employees get proper treatment and stick to their drug regimen. 

The government has recently woken up to the need to protect the employment rights of PLHAs. In October 2009, it released a policy document, the National Policy on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work, which aims to generate awareness about HIV/AIDS, encourage action to prevent its spread, and improve and develop support and care initiatives in the workplace.  

Around 2.3 million people are affected by HIV/AIDS in India. According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 2 million people die every year worldwide from HIV and AIDS; most of these deaths are in the productive age. 

Source: DNA, December 3, 2009
             Press Trust of India, November 30, 2009