Chennai, May, 2017: AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) in collaboration with ARM, a non profit organisation organised an awareness campaign at the Koovagam Festival. With the aim of creating awareness around prevention, testing and treatment of HIV/AIDS, AHF distributed around 2 lakh condoms to the transgender/ MSM community who came to attend the holy festival. The organisation also conducted rapid testing programme in and around the Koothandavar Temple for community members to ensure early detection and the linkage to treatment.
Koovagam Festival is a 15 day annual religious festival for hijras, India’s male-to-female transgendered people. Every year, thousands of transgenders from across the country converge at the Koothandavar Temple in Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu to worship Aravan and get married to them. During the festival Transgenders and MSM celebrate by dancing, playing games and even organise a beauty pagent. They also engage in having sex with male partners who throng to Koovagam, from the villages in and around. In the festive mood with fun and frolic mostly it is unprotected sex.
During the occasion, Dr. V Sam Prasad, Country Program Director, AIDS Healthcare Foundation said that, “AHF India lauds the decision of the Government for launching community based screening and the Test & Treat Policy for all. This will ensure the drastic reduction in transmission of HIV infection. At the same time, it is critical to ensure testing and treatment services at the doorstep of the high-risk population especially the transgender community considering the high prevalence.”
With the festival gaining more attention in recent years, it has become a platform for the community to create awareness about health issues, especially STDs like AIDS. As per NACO report 2016, HIV prevalence among the transgender community is 7.5 percent as against the national prevalence of 0.26 percent.
As a part of building awareness at the rural level, AIDS Healthcare Foundation is also training volunteers for conducting community testing in and around the Villupuram Village. To begin with they have trained 20 volunteers who will conduct testing for the people living in the district. They aim to build capacity of community by enhancing awareness levels, knowledge and motivation on HIV/AIDS / STI for effective functioning and advocate for safe sex behaviour and attitudes within the context of overall health and hygiene.
About AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF)
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to over 683,000 clients in 38 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare and Instagram: @aidshealthcare