India: Providing Support and Care Through Community Outreach (August 2006)

Whether it is in the slums of Pune, Maharashtra, or in the rural areas of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Emergency Plan/PEPFAR) supports efforts in India to find solutions for meeting the increasing demands for care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS. The Emergency Plan assists efforts to pioneer a new comprehensive care model, through which people living with HIV/AIDS and their families are provided with improved health care, psychosocial and economic support, and prevention services. Since the project began in 2001, it has registered 6,028 people living with HIV/AIDS, of whom 513 are children, with the goal of improving the quality of life for those individuals and their families.

Reaching into the community, the project has established and trained a cadre of community members, many of whom are HIV-positive themselves, to serve as "peer" community health workers. Community health workers provide critical information on counseling, treatment of opportunistic infections, and antiretroviral treatment. Because of their strong links with care providers and the trust that they have established within the community, community health workers are successful in helping to ensure that HIV-positive individuals on antiretroviral treatment maintain high levels of treatment adherence. They also work with family members and care givers, training them in how to provide quality care and support, and discussing the important concept of home-based care.

These activities increase awareness and reduce stigma in the community and serve as important opportunities for spreading information about HIV prevention - ultimately lessening the burden of HIV/AIDS on India's health care system. This program, through the Pathway Project, highlights the important role that trained community health workers can play in prevention of HIV/AIDS and care for people living with HIV/AIDS.

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