Staff Reporter

Society for Rural Development and Protection of Environment provides succour to the infected

Economic backwardness has little relevanceMoving efforts by self-help group membersDoctors and volunteers provide free treatment

MADURAI: Economic backwardness or social discrimination has little relevance when one decides to extend support to the HIV/AIDS infected.

This moving initiative, taken up by self-help group members, networked by the non-governmental organisation, Society for Rural Development and Protection of Environment (SRDPE), Theni, under the Palmyrah Workers' Development Society (PWDS) - Alliance Programme, displayed solidarity among poor women in transcending all barriers to rise up to the occasion and provide succour to the infected.

Its successful experiment was replicated in 13 districts where the Care and Support Programme for HIV/AIDS has been implemented by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance through its lead partner PWDS since 2000.

The members saved fist-full of rice while cooking their meals each time, and this was later collected and handed over to the NGO to be distributed to the affected families. This group's modest effort is among the numerous community-based strategic initiatives in helping the HIV/AIDS infected in Tamil Nadu.

"Preparing the society to take care of HIV/AIDS infected or affected persons through Care and Support Programme has traversed a long way in moving the relatives tend to the affected members to make the community respond without a stigma or discrimination," according to Reji Chandra, Director of PWDS.

And this happened within a short span of five years of implementing the programme.

"We don't see it as merely implementing HIV programme per se but more as a development programme as the issue concerned the entire society," he told The Hindu here recently.

The PWDS managed to network 400 doctors from Government and private sectors and an equal number of volunteers to provide free treatment to the affected. Some NGOs issued identity cards to the infected to avail themselves of free treatment and undergo regular screening. The programme is also supported by Abbot Laboratories.

According to C. Samuel Kumar, programme officer, the programme is being carried out with the involvement of 20 NGOs covering various components such as direct and indirect services, referral and linkages and capacity building.

Concerned over the increasing number of children orphaned by AIDS, 100 clubs have been established to provide education for children, hone up skills and involve them in games.

At Sattankulam in Tuticorin district, for instance, the community members have donated building, furniture, fan and books for establishing a library for the children's club. In Coimbatore, the local police supported a club.