World AIDS Week
Each year, between 1 and 7 December, Snehalaya joins World AIDS week activities to help spread awareness and address the myths and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS. Primarily targeted at sex workers, our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA), we also organise awareness programs for college students, slums dwellers and social workers.
This year, the week got off to a great start as our Snehjyot TI1 project was invited to Mumbai on World AIDS Day to receive an award from the Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS) in recognition of the outstanding work they do in HIV/AIDS education and prevention. We also opened our week of activities to help bust myths around HIV and AIDS with a poster exhibition and rally with chief guests District Collector, Anil Kawade, and Civil Surgeon, Dr Sonawane, and over 2,500 participants including students from our local medical colleges.
One of the highlights of the week was our bride and groom interaction program on 2 December. Perhaps one of the hardest challenges of living with HIV is the attached stigma, particularly when looking for a suitable marriage partner, which is why we offer this unique match-making event. More than 300 people registered for our program with eight couples finding their perfect match.
Attendees were invited to introduce themselves to potential brides and grooms by sharing their hobbies, incomes, the kind of person they are looking for and their future plans. All were welcome to bring their families to help them find the right match and our Snehadhar and hospital staff were there to mediate for those without families. Among those meeting the marriage partner was Sania...
Sania and her sisters were orphaned and when her sisters married she was left in the care of distant relatives. When the nine-year-old started falling ill repeatedly a test confirmed she had HIV and her relatives forced her to leave their house and move to Snehalaya. Here she completed school before studying fashion design at college. Now 24 and eager to start a new chapter in her life she joined in with our December marriage programme. There she caught the attention of a vegetable trader who she had also been taken by. They sat down together to further discuss their interests, likes and dislikes agreeing that they were the right person for each other. The groom's parents and our staff then continued the arrangements and on 15 December the couple were married, along with two other couples, at our Rehab Center and Sania has now moved to her new home.
Thank you to all of our generous donors who helped give our couples the best start to married life with the essentials for setting up home. Donors included our own MSM and sex worker beneficiaries and Ahmendnagar Central Rotary Club.
Working with our existing beneficiaries we seek to further educate on the facts, including prevention, care, treatment and the counselling we offer, while also gaining a better understanding of the problems and issues experienced by those living with HIV/AIDS.
This year, we spent much time in Jamkhed, where our Snehbandhan project was launched recently to work with Tamasha artists. Awareness programmes included one with over 50 female artists in attendance, another for a group of 70 lawyers, judges and others and a meeting with college students. Over 7,000 pamphlets on AIDS awareness were also distributed across the town.
On 3 December our Pink Festival invited over 80 MSM to hear from Mr Amir Shaikh Secretary of DALSA on legal rights and duties which also included dancing and other festivities. This was followed the next day by a similar programme for female sex workers covering government schemes, self employment options and health issues and the opportunity to meet with Mrs Vijayamala Mani District Officer of the Ministry of Women & Child Empowerement and Sanjay Gaikwad, District Coordinator for Women's Economic Development,
We also used the activities to promote the opening of our new 50-bed Caring Friends Hospital & Research Center which is imminent we were also highlighting the improved surgical, pre- and post-natal care, respirators and laboratory testing facilities we will soon be able to offer. Construction is nearing completion and now we need to equip it with beds, medical provisions including medicine and more. If you would like to help please email firstname.lastname@example.org.