Engaging Law Enforcement Authorities for HIV Prevention: Experiences from Avahan in Andhra Pradesh
As police are the mandated protectors of the civil rights of all the citizens, they need to be aware of, and protect, the rights of sex workers and men who have sex with men (MSM). Also, police personnel themselves are vulnerable to HIV due to factors of age (25-40 years) and longtime separation from their families.
To enhance and support the functioning of the Targeted Intervention in Andhra Pradesh (AP) and to reduce vulnerability of police to HIV, India HIV/AIDS Alliance conducted police advocacy trainings in the state as part of Avahan India AIDS Initiative. To achieve this, Alliance India held consultative meetings with partners of the AP State AIDS Control Society to develop a state-level training module, and then selected state- and district-level stakeholders, including trainers, police officers, community personnel, and NGOs, to conduct advocacy trainings at the district level. Approximately 4,000 police personnel were trained as part of this initiative .
As a result of these advocacy efforts, there has been: a noticeable drop in unlawful arrest/detention of key populations, such as sex workers and MSM; a decline in police-related violence; improved safeguarding of minors to keep them out of sex work; and increased awareness and adoption of healthy sexual behavior/practices by police personnel.
The author this post, Dr. M. Ravikanth, is Documentation and Communication Specialist, India HIV/AIDS Alliance, Andhra Pradesh.
The Avahan India AIDS Initiative (2003-2013) is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The programme aims to reduce HIV transmission and the prevalence of STIs in vulnerable high-risk populations, specifically female sex workers, MSM, and transgenders, through prevention education and services such as condom promotion, STI management, behavior change communication, community mobilization, and advocacy. Avahan works in six states, and Alliance India is a state lead partner in Andhra Pradesh.