Relief services during natural disasters and pandemics
P. Kousalya, the founder of PWN+, and Anshu Gupta, the founder of Goonj met at the Asoka Partnership Programme as they both are Asoka fellows. Goonj is a non-governmental organization headquartered in New Delhi, India which undertakes disaster relief, humanitarian aid, and community development in parts of 23 states across India. And the association turned out to be a meaningful one for PWN+, their humanitarian partnership in relief service helps people, especially people living with HIV (PLHIV), in times of natural calamities, and still, it continues whenever the situation requires intervention.
During the 2015 severely affected flood in Chennai, PWN+ first time collaborated with Goonj for relief services. Before that PWN+ had focused only on treatment and care services as their primarily focused priority in urgency. With the support of Goonj, PWN+ distributed 2700 relief kits to the worst affected PLHIV families during the flood. And through this collaboration, PWN+ has got an opportunity to learn relief services in all their practicality. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) supported PWN+ by providing transportation costs for the distribution of relief kits and sending their staff as volunteers to pack the relief kits. Around 200 staff of TCS worked as volunteers during the flood period.
At the time of Cyclone Nihar in 2020 in Chennai, with the support of Goonj, PWN+ distributed around 500 relief packages to the affected PLHIV families.
During Mizoram Landslide in 2020, as requested by PWN+, Goonj supported with the relief kits which was as much as a timely needed help for the Mizo Positive Women.
During the first wave of Covid 19 pandemic and related lockdown as PWN asked about ART adherence, an old woman living with HIV replied sarcastically” Here is nothing to eat for us, and then you are asking to consume medicine on time”. It was an eye-opening incident for PWN+ and once again PWN+ approached Goonj and well-wishers to help PLHIV families in the critical period of Covid-19. To meet their subsistence needs 3380 ration kits were distributed in Chennai, Thiruvalluvar, and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu other than Ajmer and Delhi. Once again Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) extended their help and donated Rs.60,000/- as emergency support. Mr. Sunderagopalan (Chennai), Elizabeth H Gadd (UK), Raju (Anna Nagar), Vijayalakshmi and Aarati Trust (Hyderabad and volunteers of Exenora were supported with donations to our emergency fund. Using the emergency fund, PWN+ provided treatment support to HIV-positive women who have suffered from critical illnesses like Cancer or renal failure during the lockdown. Food and monetary support have also been given to the family of Covid 19 infected WLHIV (single parents) in Chennai.
Supplementary Nutrition Support
Towards the well-being of WLHIV, PWN+ in coalition with the Church of South India, Social Empowerment: Vision in Action (CSI SEVA) provides monthly supplementary nutrition distribution in Chennai. Since 2017, the Emmanuel Church in Anna Nagar and St. Michael Church in Padi supports monthly nutrition support for WLHIV. Emmanuel church supports 30 sick or aged WLHIV of low-income families and 5 WLHIV activists with a supplementary nutrition kit which contains 10 kg rice, 3 kg whole wheat, 1kg Toor dal, and 1 litre of groundnut oil. St. Michael Church gives provision kit for 45 WLHIV who reside in and around Padi. The kit contains groceries, health mix powder, dates, and nuts.
Emergency Treatment Support
Apart from the psycho-socio-economic vulnerabilities, women living with HIV are more likely to experience more side effects of antiretroviral medicines than men, in certain cases the side effects are life-threatening too. Side effects like lipodystrophy (uneven fat deposit in the body) and menstrual changes, like irregular or heavy, and painful periods, are associated with certain anti-HIV medicines. Apart from the healthcare support, there are always a lot of other needs them like clothes and provisions, education support for children, rent payment, travel costs to seek treatment, cost of medicines, bill payment of diagnostic tests and treatment, and food expenses and care taker service during hospital admission, etc.
For the last three years, PWN+ partnering with Karnaprayag Trust to provide emergency support for women and children living with HIV and their family members. Karnaprayag Trust is one of the leading social service organizations in Chennai which provides daycare centers for children from underprivileged families and for those with working mothers in the service industry. Karnaprayag Trust provides PWN+ monetary contributions for emergency treatment support. Medical Officers of all ARTCs refer WLHIV who need medicines, food, and caretaker support for hospital admission or diagnostic tests, dialysis, etc. Sometimes they refer women for rent payment, provision support, or school/college fee payment for children. Apart from the support of Karnaprayag Trust, PWN+ mobilize fund from well-wishers and other organizations for emergency support.
Since 2017, PWN+ joined hands with the Rotary Club of Chennai Carnatic to help children impacted by HIV/AIDS. "Vaazhvoli” is the initiative of the Rotary Club of Chennai Carnatic, to bring about a positive impact in the lives of children infected and affected with HIV. "Vaazhvoli" is the outcome of the realization that every child is special, has spectacular growth potential, if given guidance and access to resources. Under the Vazhvoli initiative, PWN+ conducted a program to identify and develop the skill of children through storytelling training. Mr. Edward Miller from World Storytelling Institute facilitated the one-year-long program for 50 children to enrich their hidden talents in story writing and motivate them to overcome the psychological stress of being infected.
Since 2017, every year, the Rotary Club of Chennai Carnatic supported around 100 children with educational materials (school bags, notebooks, guidebooks and TABS) During Covid Period they provided TABS for five bright students to attend online classes.
With monetary support from like-minded civil society organizations, CSR foundations, and faith-based organizations, PWN+ enabled women to access opportunities to increase their income through employment and livelihood support. With the support CSI SEVA provided income generation activities for twenty six PLHIV families and pushcart and seed money of Rs. 5000/- to given to four women in Chennai with the Support of United Evangelical Lutheran Church of India (UELCI).
Since 2020, PWN+ is partnering with SCANDRIVE of Stella Maris College and conducting skill development programs for WLHIV. Training on Computer literacy, Digital literacy, and lay counseling was conducted for 25 women who are active staff or leaders of the positive networks.
Cervical cancer Screening and treatment for WLHIV
The risk of cervical cancer for WLHIV is 4-6 times that of general women. It is a preventable disease but lack of awareness of cervical cancer and screening sometimes make women’s life miserable. PWN+ collaborated with the oncologist Dr. Sudha (Colposcopy Department of Gosha Hospital) in a study on cervical cancer among WLHIV and enrolled 76 women for the cervical cancer testing. Out of the 76 women, 5 women were detected with cervical cancer, 5 with RTI, 3 with cervical sores, 5 with PCOD, 1 with breast infection, 1 with uterine cyst, I had menstrual problem, and one with stone in the stomach. All diagnosed cases are referred to General Hospital for further treatment. PWN+ also referred 15 women to Family Planning Association (FPA) at Ashok Nagar, Chennai for Pap smear screening and medications for minor RTI issues. FPA also provided nutrition supplies; rice, dates syrup, ghee and iron tablets, for HIV-positive women who have undergone screening there.