Samarth(Friendly and responsive HIV Testing Clinics for MSM, Transgender and Hijras)
Samarth, which means “empowered” in many Indian languages, is based on the principle of establishing ‘test-treat-adhere-prevent’ cascade for MSM and transgender population in India. Samarth community clinics will offer friendly services for HIV screening tests to MSM, transgenders and hijras to help drive the UNAIDS 90-90-90 goals in India. Supported by the Elton John AIDS Foundation and encouraged by NACO, Samarth aims to create a community led model of encouraging early HIV testing and link to treatment and care that could be embedded with national HIV programme.
Samarth Community Clinics will create safe spaces to expand HIV testing for MSM, TG and hijras in six metro cities, namely Delhi, Vadodara, Pune, Jalandhar, Hooghly and Secunderabad over three years (2016-2018). The Clinics are established and run in partnership with local community-based organizations – Udaan, Shaan, Amitie and Lakshya and by Alliance India in two sites. With a strategy of case management all the clients will be followed up to ensure confirmatory tests, and linkage to treatment and care for those who are found positive. For those who are found negative, appropriate counselling and support to remain negative, as well as repeat tests will be ensured every six months. The model is thus aspiring to develop a community strategy to contribute to the UNAIDS goal of 90-90-90. Existing projects of government and Alliance India will be leveraged for better linkages, such as Wajood as well as ICTC, ART centers and Vihaan Care and Support Centers for confirmatory testing, treatment and care, if the need be.
Through collectivization and sensitization events, the project will address some of the barriers including violence and stigma that hinder the MSM, TG and hijra communities’ access to health services. The programme will increase capacity of CBOs to run clinical services and increase community-friendly safe testing opportunities to help reduce testing gaps. Samarth will serve as a pilot programme on community testing for MSM, TG and hijras in India and influence government HIV strategies in future.
The programme will work to mitigate service gaps, increase access and reduce structural barriers to ensure access to quality services for MSM, transgenders and hijras.
Alliance India is leading the Samarth project in consultation with NACO, community leaders and health care providers working on community led HIV testing clinics. National AIDS Research Institute (NARI) is technical partner in Samarth helping in the development of community testing clinics, training to staff and oversight for quality control. A total of 10,800 MSM, transgenders and hijras will undergo HIV screening test.