Lack of funds hits programme to fight AIDS/HIV

Lack of funds hits programme to fight AIDS/HIV

The Delhi government’s programme to combat HIV/AIDS through trained workers has taken a hit due to a shortage of funds to pay these “peer educators”.

The peer educators are community workers who interact at the grassroots level with groups that are vulnerable to contracting HIV/AIDS, and educate them on preventive measures.

They work with NGOs, but their honorariums are paid by the Delhi State AIDS Control Society (DSACS), an autonomous body under the state government. The DSACS has been unable to pay their salaries since April.

Although it has promised to pay out the salaries from April to September, in advance, by June-end, the NGOs are sceptical. Several peer educators have already quit the job due to non-payment of salaries, according to the NGOs.

High-risk groups like transgenders, men having sex with men (MSM), female sex workers, truck drivers and, people who inject drugs are counselled on issues related to HIV/AIDS.

“The DSACS is unable to pay the salaries of the peer educators. So they are leaving the profession. The projects are also being scaled down with several peer educators leaving.

Several NGOs have exited working with the government as their workers could not be paid. In the coming months, the numbers will go down drastically due to the fund shortage,” said a senior official at the DSACS.

The DSACS carries out its activities with the Centre’s National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO). While the HIV kits and condoms are directly supplied by NACO, the state wing is responsible for paying the peer educators.

The DSACS is now considering approaching the Delhi government for a grant or a loan to fill the gap. Each peer educator is paid around Rs 3,300 every month.

“The peer educators are the foot soldiers who ensure that the community members benefit,” said Francis Joseph, secretary, Delhi Drug Users Forum, which is working with people who injects themselves with drugs.

“From 20 peer educators, currently we have seven such workers. There is no motivation for such workers with the project being scaled down. Several outreach workers handling target intervention programmes have also left. Only field teams can make the project successful,” said Joseph.

At Society for People’s Awareness, Care & Empowerment (SPACE), the number of peer educators has come down from 25 to 15 since April.

“Since then, less meetings are being conducted with the target groups. We cannot reach out to more people with less peer educators. Several other programmes like advocacy programmes, community events and disseminating educational material on the preventive measures of HIV/AIDS have also been hit,” said Anjan Joshi, SPACE.

Earlier, the Delhi government had cut down on advertisements after the Centre slashed funds for AIDS intervention programmes.
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