Feelings of a community representative during the COVID-19 induced lockdown
It was all of a sudden when we came to know on 23rd March 2020 that from next the morning- “You can’t go out, you can’t have access to public transport, you need to stay home without connecting with any outside person, you can’t take things without sanitizing, you all are not allowed to meet friends, you can’t meet with neighbours, even you can’t go to take any health service while you need something in an emergency.” As a community we are together, we used to meet every month at ART centres, we used to meet at Care and Support Centre for support group meetings. These all are feedback and comments I got while I was receiving calls from almost across the nation when somebody was calling for support in getting the ART medicine.
Within 2 months, I received hundreds of calls, I did not know the person who was in need but the only sound that would echo in my ears — “Didi humein dawa chahiye, hum apne sehar mein nahi hain, humare paas kaam nahi hai, humein khane ko chahiye, Hum kai dino se family ko bhi nahin mile hain (Sister, we need medicines, we are not in our own city, we don’t have work/job, we need food, we have not met our family members for many days)!’’
While talking to people living with HIV, I came to know about some of the challenges faced by them. I could sense a feeling of loneliness and fear of getting Corona due to low immunity among people living with HIV.
I personally felt that I could connect with every person who is living with HIV-high risk group, having different sexual orientation, migrants etc. Each call gave me the courage to discuss the problem and gave the motivation to come up with solutions while talking with the Alliance India team or NACO representatives from CST (Care, Support and Treatment) division. For instance, we came up with the solution that we need to have in advance due list of PLHIV for whom we can follow over the phone, for those who are stuck at their homes we can go at their doorsteps to deliver the medication. To facilitate medicines for the PLHIV who are not having the green card for outdoor service of ART, we wrote a letter to the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) to dispense the ART in the nearest area of local communities by decentralization of ART at ICTC (Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres) and Link ART centres.
This lockdown time helped me connect with all teammembers because in our routine life we were so busy and used to have very little time to talk. This time made us sit under a roof and talk with all family members while having meals and watching television. This time allowed us to talk with our partners on each micro-levelissues and discuss each of their problems. This time gave us a sense of belonging within the communities while having very frequent web calls and meetings. This time pulled us out of our own loneliness while solving the problems of the community.
By Mona Balani
Project Director, Vihaan Care and Support Programme