In aid of a cause

HELPING HAND Ramakrishnan: `I have always been concerned with people marginalised'

HELPING HAND Ramakrishnan: `I have always been concerned with people marginalised'  

L. Ramakrishnan is putting to good use his specialisation in the bio-medical sciences to help those involved with HIV/Aids prevention work

What you like about L. Ramakrishnan is his emphasis on methods. A Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Texas, Ramakrishnan, as Country Director, Programs and Research, at Solidarity and Action Against The HIV Infection in India (Saathii), trains activists involved in direct action against HIV/Aids in methodology. "There should be systematic data collection. There should be an emphasis on how best you can get your work to impact - be it an educational programme, a treatment programme or condom distribution programme. And how do you know the work has produced the best possible results. To assess impact, methods have to be rigorous both at the pre-intervention and post-intervention stage," he says.

He further observes: "My focus on methodologies to study population dynamics and interaction between species led me to an interest in host-pathogen relationships in agriculture and epidemiology, the study of diseases." Ramakrishnan is putting to good use his academic skills in the bio-medical sciences and imparts training to members of advocacy groups as part of Saathii.

While Saathii is based in Chennai and has a branch in Kolkata, it works in co-ordination with two agencies in Bangalore, the Dharani Trust and Janastu.

"The trust helps us in advocacy and use of its social scientific expertise in campaigns against HIV/Aids. Janastu is a group of computer professionals who help NGOs use IT for whatever objectives they have at hand at low cost or no cost at all. They offer a free software, Pantoto, which can be customised. It is a content management system that helps in the formation of the modules for research. Saathii too uses their software," says Ramakrishnan.

Ramakrishnan can opt to work in a corporate set up or teach in any U.S. university, which, in fact he did at the University of Texas for sometime in his 14-year stay in the U.S. But he has taken up work - training direct service providers - that makes his academic training socially relevant.

How did he happen to take up HIV/Aids particularly? "My advocacy is motivated by personal reasons as much as my involvement with social issues. I have had friends who have been afflicted by HIV/Aids. I have always been concerned with people marginalised because of gender, sexuality or community affiliations, which is the case with HIV. My work with Saathii is fulfilling just as it was when I worked with survivors of domestic violence."

Ramakrishnan, in the middle of research and advocacy, has been playing the veena too. He received training in the veena from Sangeet Natak Akademi Award winner Kalpakam Swaminathan, who has been involved with Adiyar Kalakshetra and the Government College of Music, Madras. He has also been trained by well-known veena player S.R. Janakiraman.

Saathii's objectives

Organisations at the frontlines of the battle against HIV/AIDS are in the urgent need of strengthening their competence across 34 states in India. In response to meeting their needs, Saathii supports government and civil society through the following programmes: Advocacy for increased attention and political commitment on HIV/AIDS; networking to bring people from multiple sectors together and foster collaborations; information dissemination to bridge knowledge gaps; technical and financial assistance to strengthen and expand HIV/AIDS services.


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