Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tenacity and Positivity in the Face of Stigma

A joint report in July by the World Bank and the International Center for Research on Women revealed stigma as a key factor in the increase in HIV/AIDS cases in India. Over the course of two months, Jyoti, Candice and I witnessed the ramifications of stigma in the local region: misinformation, marginalization of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), and decrease in self-efficacy. We also understood that education alone cannot effectively combat stigma; directly engaging the HIV/AIDS community in the dissemination of information and maintaining a tenacious and positive attitude are equally important.
Four weeks ago, we attended a support group meeting where a faction of the HIV/AIDS population came together to share their daily struggles and receive updates on medication and health checkups. Most of the attendees were women from low socioeconomic backgrounds with a sorrowing past. When we questioned the women to assess their needs and understand recurrent problems, they mentioned hostility and discrimination from family and community as a persistent issue. Despite these issues, all the women had a positive and determined attitude, and they refused to let difficulties dictate their lives. The disease was eroding their physical health, but they were energetic throughout the discussions, leaping at the chance to offer their thoughts on ways to reduce stigma.
Our meeting at the Community Care Center (CCC) was yet another learning experience on tenacity and attitude. The CCC was located in an austere room inside a dilapidated hospital on the outskirts of Dharwad. During our visit, we were informed that it would be closed down within 2 days due to staff shortages and depleting resources. A week later, we learned that plans for a new CCC were already in motion. Kahlil Gibran once said, “The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns; the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious to the rose. What was initially a setback for the staff at CCC and their funding organization, KHPT, was turned into an opportunity for improvement. They focused on the potential of the CCC and decided to build upon its positive attributes.
After witnessing the tenacity and positivity of the stakeholders and the HIV/AIDS community, we were inspired to tackle our remaining issues with the same attitude. Although our goal of creating a centralized database and assembling training materials and FrontlineSMS software guides were completed, we still have yet to resolve the technical issues. We are certain that they will be solved, and we plan to continue our correspondence with the local NGOs to make progress on the issues.