Join us for the World AIDS Day All-India Run & Cultural Event! (Sunday, 2 December 2012 in New Delhi)

World AIDS Day 2012 All-India Run and Cultural Event
***8am-2pm (***PLEASE note EARLIER starting time!)
Sunday, 2 December 2012

New Delhi

Organized by: India HIV/AIDS Alliance

Co-sponsored by: Population Council; Citibank; UNDP; Centre for Advocacy & Research (CFAR); Delhi Frontrunners; and Blind Relief Association

RSVP: Please let us know if you’ll join us. Click here!

All-India Run: Participants will include people affected by the epidemic, their friends and families, community members, students and other stakeholders motivated to raise awareness of HIV in India, including the private sector. At least 500 participants are expected to participate in the run, and medals will be awarded to the top finishers in the men’s, women’s and transgender categories.

Members of affected communities have also been invited to speak and serve as judges for the run. Representatives from a range of stakeholders have also been invited, including NACO, UN agencies, international donors and NGOs, along with Alliance India implementing partners and beneficiary communities from all over India.

Activities will begin at 8am at Safdarjung Tomb. The run will start around 9am and will follow Lodhi Road, ending at the Blind Relief Association (aka Delhi Blind School), near the Oberoi Hotel. The Cultural Event will take place immediately following the race on the ground of Delhi Blind School and will last until 2pm. (For detailed route information, please see map below.)

Starting Line:
Safdarjang Tomb, Lodi Estate
(At the intersection of Safdarjang Road and Aurobindo Marg)

Metro Station: Jor Bagh

Finish Line:
Blind Relief Association (aka Delhi Blind School)
Lal Bahadur Shastri Marg
Lodhi Road H.O.

(Near Oberoi Hotel)

Cultural Event: Immediately following the run, the Cultural Event will take place at Delhi Blind School. Celebrating life and creativity in the face of the epidemic, the cultural event will consist of music and drama performances. The jazz and rock bands invited have members from communities affected by the epidemic. Co-sponsor Population Council will organize a skit presentation between music acts to highlight issues of at-risk populations. Lunch will be available. In addition, stalls will be set up by sponsors and other national and international organisations, including Population Council, Citibank, and UNDP, to present their work addressing HIV/AIDS and supporting communities.

This event is open to the public. There is no fee for participation. Participants are encouraged to wear red or white, but all will be welcomed. 

Jamia Millia Islamia, Indira Gandhi National Open University, Bhim Rao Ambedkar College, and Amity University are collaborating with Alliance India to provide volunteers for the event and organise student participation.

If you have any questions, please email us at: worldaidsday@allianceindia.org

Poster: Help get the word out about this event. Print out our poster and display it in your community. Thanks!

Map of World AIDS Day All-India Run Route and Cultural Event Location

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Alliance India’s World AIDS Day 2012 Objectives
  • To raise awareness on the need for continued support to address HIV among high-risk groups
  • To celebrate the diversity of affected communities with a focus on living lives free from stigma and discrimination
  • To acknowledge and encourage stakeholders, including government, civil society and the private sector, to intensify efforts to ensure a continuum of care services for affected communities
India HIV/AIDS Alliance

Based in New Delhi, Alliance India was founded in 1999 as a non-governmental organization operating partnership with civil society and communities to support sustained responses to HIV in India. Complementing the Indian national program, Alliance India works through capacity building, technical support and advocacy to strengthen delivery of effective, innovative, community- based interventions to key populations affected by the epidemic. The organization’s programs focus on those most vulnerable to HIV, with a particular emphasis on marginalized populations, such as men who have sex with men, people who use drugs, transgenders, and sex workers.

World AIDS Day Background

World AIDS Day has been observed since 1988. HIV/AIDS has become one of the defining health and development issues of our time. Low- and middle-income nations, even those with increasingly powerful economies like India, still face serious shortfalls in resources for AIDS. Stigma and discrimination toward those affected by the epidemic continue to create significant barriers to effective responses. Two-thirds of those who require antiretroviral treatment to live healthy lives still do not have access to these life-saving drugs. Investment in programming for high-risk populations such as men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who use drugs, and transgenders continue to be grossly insufficient. Worldwide HIV has infected an estimated 34 million people. In India, the National AIDS Control Organisation estimates overall adult HIV prevalence at 0.31%, which translates into roughly 2.4 million people living with HIV in India.

2012 Global Theme for World AIDS Day

The theme for World AIDS Day as chosen by UNAIDS and its partners is Getting to Zero: Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS Related Deaths. World AIDS Day advocacy will focus on ensuring universal access to services including prevention, care, support and treatment and of fulfilling human rights.

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Remembering Sukanya: International Transgender Day of Remembrance 2012

This Diwali, Aarthi called. I expected her usual warm greetings and was unprepared for her distressed voice.

“I wanted to tell you sooner but could not get you on the phone. Abhi, I have bad news for you.”

I was very tensed. Aarthi had never spoken to me like this. “What happened?“

“You know Sukanya?”

”Sukanya? I haven’t heard from her in nine years. She vanished from my life. The last I knew she shifted to Bangalore without saying goodbye. What happened to her?”

Aarthi replied, now sobbing, “Sukanya’s no more!”

My heart skipped. There was silence. At last, I shouted, “How? When?”

“She went to Bangalore. Nobody knew where she was or what she was doing.”

I had first known Sukanya as a dusky hijra girl when she was no more than 26 years of age. She used to work with me as an outreach worker when we ran a special programme for transgenders and hijras in Mumbai at the Humsafar Trust. More than her physical beauty, I always knew Sukanya to be humble and well-cultured. She used to greet everyone with a beautiful, sweet smile and a polite voice.

We had a special bond between us from the start. Sukanya and I were like real sisters, but there was a side of her personality which I never figured out. Some used to joke that Sukanya could be identified from a kilometer away since she was always drunk. To hide her drinking, she wore heavy perfume and used mouth fresheners. I encouraged her to quit many times, but her promises to stop would be broken the next day.

Finally, I got mad. I shared my anger. Sukanya cried and kept crying. I tried my best to console her. Sukanya talked about the rejection from her family. She told me about her struggle for survival as a hijra. She was an outreach worker part time during the day, but at night she did sex work. Finally she broke down and revealed she was living with HIV for almost two years. She had no support and was terrified of dying. The more she worried, the more she drank.

Sukanya told me, “I want to finish this life so that I can come back in next one as a good girl. Sukanya means ‘good girl.’ The life of a hijra is full of discrimination, hatred, and loneliness. In the next life, I want to be a pretty girl. I want to have everything in life. I want the love of my parents. I want to be married and have kids. I want to be healthy, and I want to earn my income with dignity.”

I connected her to a mental health counsellor, and she started showing improvement. I was happy with her progress. I moved to a new job, and my contact with her reduced. The last I heard about her was that she wanted to reconnect with her family and left without telling anyone. It made me happy to think of her reunited with her parents and living at home in Karnataka. Until Aarthi called on Diwali.

Aarthi told me that Sukanya had been murdered, brutally. Her murderer is rumoured to be her longtime partner, who hanged her from a ceiling fan to give the impression of a suicide. The police have still not charged anyone with the crime. For the rest of the day, I could not speak to anyone but kept thinking: Is it so difficult for a transgender to find love, live with dignity and be accepted by her family?

Her murder is still sinking in, and my thoughts return to her again and again. Above all, I hope she comes back in another life as what she always wanted to be: Sukanya, a good girl, but honestly, she will always be one in my heart.

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Abhina Aher is Manager for the Pehchan programme at India HIV/AIDS Alliance in New Delhi.

With support from the Global Fund, Pehchan builds the capacity of 200 community-based organisations (CBOs) for men who have sex with men (MSM), transgenders and hijras in 17 states in India to be more effective partners in the government’s HIV prevention programme. By supporting the development of strong CBOs, Pehchan will address some of the capacity gaps that have often prevented CBOs from receiving government funding for much-needed HIV programming. Named Pehchan which in Hindi means ‘identity’, ‘recognition’ or ‘acknowledgement,’ this programme is implemented by India HIV/AIDS Alliance in consortium with Humsafar Trust, SAATHII, Sangama, and SIAAP and will reach 453,750 MSM, transgenders and hijras by 2015. It is the Global Fund’s largest single-country grant to date focused on the HIV response for vulnerable sexual minorities.

Making Pehchan: Why the Global Fund Matters for Sexual Minorities

Alliance India’s own Sonal Mehta is now a blogger for The Huffington Post’s “Big Push” campaign, an effort to galvanize increased support for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

In her first post, she describes how leaders in India’s MSM and transgender communities conceived, designed and led the implementation of Pehchan, the Global Fund’s largest single-country grant to date focused on the HIV response for vulnerable sexual minorities:

In late 2007, a group of advocates for men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgenders in India were concerned that efforts to strengthen community systems for vulnerable sexual minorities were not getting the attention or funding needed.

The group organized around a basic but compelling principle: “MSM and transgender communities in India must act as equal partners in the national HIV response and work collectively to increase funding and expand programming for these populations.”

Over the next two years, this core group, together with other key leaders working with sexual minorities in India, went on to become the driving force behind the successful Global Fund proposal which has become the Fund’s largest single-country grant to date focused on the HIV response for vulnerable sexual minorities….

To read the complete article, please click here.

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Sonal Mehta is Director of Policy & Programmes at India HIV/AIDS Alliance in New Delhi. She leads a diverse and growing programme portfolio that includes Pehchan.

With support from the Global Fund, Pehchan builds the capacity of 200 community-based organisations (CBOs) for men who have sex with men (MSM), transgenders and hijras in 17 states in India to be more effective partners in the government’s HIV prevention programme. By supporting the development of strong CBOs, Pehchan will address some of the capacity gaps that have often prevented CBOs from receiving government funding for much-needed HIV programming. Named Pehchan which in Hindi means ‘identity’, ‘recognition’ or ‘acknowledgement,’ this programme is implemented by India HIV/AIDS Alliance in consortium with Humsafar Trust, SAATHII, Sangama, and SIAAP and will reach 453,750 MSM, transgenders and hijras by 2015. It is the Global Fund’s largest single-country grant to date focused on the HIV response for vulnerable sexual minorities.

What India’s Politicians Can Learn from President Obama’s Victory Speech

I believe we can keep the promise of our founding, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or who you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight. You can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.”

                     Excerpt from President Barack Obama’s Victory Speech, 7 November 2012

In his eloquent and unifying speech in Chicago following his re-election, President Obama did not fail to mention the gay communities who have strongly supported Obama; and they have every reason to do so. Among the milestones of Obama’s first term is an impressive record of protecting and advancing the rights of sexual minorities: the repeal of the ban on openly gay men and women serving in the military; his view that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional and would not be defended in court by his administration; expansion of legislation on hate crimes to include attacks based on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation; and his public support for marriage equality and adoption. His victory gives hope to members of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities around the world who continue to struggle for justice, inclusion and respect.

In India, sadly, we have no elected leaders who echo similar sentiments. During our efforts to read down Section 377 of Indian Penal Code and decriminalize homosexuality, two ministries—the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and the Ministry of Home Affairs—took contradictory stands in the Delhi High Court. In spite of support for decriminalization from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Additional Attorney General stood by the Ministry of Home Affairs’ affidavit, which justified retention of the archaic law by citing public morality: ‘…Indian society is yet to demonstrate willingness to show greater tolerance to practices of homosexuality.’

Following the judgment of the Delhi High Court to read down Section 377, the matter has been taken to the Supreme Court of India by an coalition of religious leaders across faiths, a rare occasion of the religious diversity of this country speaking with one voice, albeit misguided and bigoted. This time, however, in the Supreme Court, the Government filed an affidavit affirming that it abides by the Delhi High Court judgment. No elected leader has ever made such any statement—in the media or in parliament—so clearly supporting and defending human rights of sexual minorities.

India’s founders had a dream too: to build a nation that promotes, protects and respects civil, political, cultural and legal rights of every citizen irrespective of caste, creed, religion, race, color and sex. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru repealed the odious ‘Criminal Tribes Act’ in 1949 that criminalized the country’s hijra communities, reasoning that the Act constituted a negation of civil liberty. Today, do we have leaders who are so passionate about social welfare of the sexual minorities? Sadly, the answer remains no.

In 2011 during a public meeting, Union Health Minister Shri Gulab Nabi Azad called homosexuality ‘a disease’ and ‘unnatural.’ Shri Lalu Prasad Yadav, chief of the political party Rashtriya Janata Dal, made a similar statement during a debate in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s parliament. He observed that the Delhi High Court judgment ‘degrades’ Indian values, and it demands a serious discussion in the Parliament. Though there was outrage against these parochial and prejudiced views, such statements from our politicians only make us wonder how much longer our fight will continue.

In the recently concluded American election cycle, voters in Wisconsin elected the first openly lesbian senator, Tammy Baldwin, who will represent the state in Washington, DC. She reflects a remarkable change in the United States: the popular election of sexual minorities to office as a routine fact of political life. This progress has been the result of advocacy by generations of LGBT Americans and reflects a growing affirmation of our communities and rights by straight politicians, including President Obama. When will India have a leader with the vision and courage to openly defend our rights with genuine zeal and interest? Though India’s journey to equality still rises ahead of us, we are not disheartened. Social evolution on another side of the world gives us more reasons to make our voices heard. We will continue our struggle, as we share the distinctly American optimism of Scarlett O’Hara: ‘After all, tomorrow is another day.’

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The author of this post, Yadavendra Singh, is Senior Programme Officer: Capacity Building for Alliance India’s Pehchan Programme.

With support from the Global FundPehchan builds the capacity of 200 community-based organisations (CBOs) for men who have sex with men (MSM), transgenders and hijras in 17 states in India to be more effective partners in the government’s HIV prevention programme. By supporting the development of strong CBOs, Pehchan will address some of the capacity gaps that have often prevented CBOs from receiving government funding for much-needed HIV programming. Named Pehchan which in Hindi means ‘identity’, ‘recognition’ or ‘acknowledgement,’ this programme is implemented by India HIV/AIDS Alliance in consortium with Humsafar Trust, SAATHII, Sangama, and SIAAP and will reach 453,750 MSM, transgenders and hijras by 2015. It is the Global Fund’s largest single-country grant to date focused on the HIV response for vulnerable sexual minorities.