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In print: a positive aid on the AIDS front

It’s the first of its kind in India, and promises to be of use not just to patients, but care-givers as well. The SAATHII Red Ribbon Pages is a comprehensive directory of HIV/AIDS services in the country, providing a plethora of relevant information.

Solidarity and Action Against The HIV Infection in India (SAATHII) compiled the book over a year of working with grassroots groups in districts, villages, cities and towns, with funding support from The John M. Lloyd Foundation, USA, UNAIDS India and Global Strategies for HIV Prevention, USA. The directory contains detailed information like care, services and support for victims and families, prevention and awareness programmes, specific areas of expertise, membership networks, target groups, training and even funding sources.

“It is an attempt to keep a record of what is available and what is still needed to deal with the deadly disease,” Anupam Hazra, from SAATHII’s Calcutta office, said. Of the total of 1,200, in West Bengal 132 governmental and non-governmental organisations are profiled, including 51 in Calcutta. Apart from names and contacts, the list comprises the services provided by each, from counselling and testing to education campaigns through theatre and corporate support, and training counsellors and patients.

The NGOs featured in the directory deal with a diverse set of people ranging from adolescents and pregnant women to streetchildren and sex workers. And the source of funding is transparent, including donations, service charge, international agency sponsorship and government aid. But one unique feature is ‘specific needs’, under which each organisation lists areas that it needs help to improve upon, such as infrastructure and fundraising, research and documentation or networking.

“We thought that if an organisation is lacking in one area and another NGO provides that service, then they can get in touch,” Hazra explains. “The need for this is particularly acute in our state, because whereas in Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh, each organisation knows about the existence of the other and they work together, here they are all ignorant of each other. The networking is not good at all.”

Tamil Nadu has the highest number of listings with 200, followed by Andhra Pradesh with around 150. Next in line is West Bengal with its services for HIV/AIDS patients. The 795-page directory also lists funding organisations. The future plan is to upload all this information onto several websites, including www.saathii.org, by the end of this year. Also on the cards is a CD-ROM with the information.

“We want to update this every two years. In the next edition, hopefully, we will be able to divide the directory into separate volumes, with information on specific areas. Those who work with sex workers and others who work with adolescents, for instance, will need different information. With new groups coming into existence every year, we have to organise the information,” Hazra adds.

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