In India, HIV incidence is significantly higher among criminalised and marginalised groups such as sex workers, transgender people, men who have sex with men (MSM), and people who inject drugs. Almost 289,500 MSM are living with HIV in India, which equated to 4.3% of the MSM population in 2015. There is also a high prevalence among sex workers, transgender people and people who inject drugs.
Attempts to protect the rights of marginalised groups have resulted in both successes and failures. Although transgender people and hijras were officially recognised as the ‘third gender’ in 2014, homosexuality had been re-criminalised just a few months earlier in late 2013 leading to an increase in violence, verbal abuse and discrimination against LGBT Indians. In 2016, the right to gender identification for transgender people was effectively eliminated by the 2016 Transgender Bill, which prevents members of this population identifying as male or female.
We work with LEPRA Society in south-east India to target people at highest risk of HIV infection – sex workers, MSM, people who inject drugs, truckers, and migrants – with prevention activities. In India, the rate of HIV infection is higher among these criminalised and marginalised groups. LEPRA has brought expertise to the field of HIV, drawn from years of experience of working with leprosy, where prejudice and stigma is also a key issue for those affected by the disease. In 2017, they reached 5,467 people with activities to reduce stigma and discrimination.
In the same year LEPRA reached over 4,600 people with HIV treatment, care and services; and another 4,946 people with TB services. LEPRA also provides care and support for vulnerable children and is working to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission. They provided 25,089 people with integrated HIV/SRHR services in 2017. As part of their advocacy work, in 2017 LEPRA had consultations with various government agencies on the rising availability of social protection schemes among eligible people living with HIV.
LEPRA is one of five Alliance Linking Organisations addressing HIV in India.