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Pride in Pune: BJGMC TREAT Asia Team Conducts Health Camp
HIV continues to disproportionately affect men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women in India. The latest estimates from the HIV Sentinel Surveillance published by the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) in 2017 report that the prevalence of HIV in these key populations is ten times higher than the general population. India’s laws against homosexuality had often made the provision of HIV healthcare and other services for these populations challenging. However, in a historic judgement in September 2018, the Supreme Court of India decriminalized consensual homosexual activity, which hopefully will facilitate better delivery of care to these key populations.
As part of the Pride month celebrations, the TREAT Asia team at the BJGMC–JHU Clinical Research Site recently partnered with the Udaan Trust (a non-governmental organization that works with the LGBTQ community) to conduct a two-day sexual health awareness and screening camp. Treat Asia counsellors Suhasini Surwase, Archana Pawar, and Kanta Zarekar met with key outreach workers of the Udaan Trust to tailor one-on-one educational sessions for the camp participants. Additionally, the team conducted oral HPV and HIV screenings. The counsellors were assisted in this endeavor by three BJGMC-JHU CRS laboratory technicians: Samir Shaikh, Amol Vairat, and Yugandhara Aher. The activities were overseen and facilitated by TREAT Asia Study Coordinator Smita Nimkar.
A common theme that arose during the one-on-one interactions was the lack of mental health services, despite many of the participants having suffered frequent depressive or anxiety symptoms. The TREAT Asia team is committed to improving health in these vulnerable populations and will provide mental health screening services and linkage to mental health professionals in the coming months as part of its outreach activities.