The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) on Jan. 18 debuts a much-anticipated blueprint for how to effectively address HIV-related stigma and discrimination in numerous settings – from hospitals to college campuses – in India.
The country’s National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) tapped ICRW and other select organizations three years ago to devise a strategy for reducing HIV-related stigma and discrimination nationwide.
To that end, ICRW researchers used a global blueprint for reducing stigma that they had previously developed and adapted it to be culturally relevant for India. ICRW then tested the framework in five settings throughout India and assessed whether it would be feasible to integrate the framework into NACO’s – and other organizations’ – HIV programs.
India is the first country to pilot ICRW’s universal framework and evaluate whether it could appropriately guide national efforts to reduce stigma.
ICRW will host an event Jan. 18 in New Delhi to present the results of its study and discuss how the Indian government can move forward with the findings. Officials from NACO, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS and other organizations will participate in the gathering. ICRW President Sarah Degnan Kambou and Ravi Verma, director of ICRW’s Asia Regional Office, as well as Madhumita Das, a senior technical specialist in that office and Anne Stangl, a senior behavioral scientist and HIV stigma expert in ICRW’s Washington office, will lead presentations.
“Our study, with evidence from multiple sectors, is timely and strategic,” Verma said. “With the right kind of advocacy and support from other international agencies like UNDP, UNAIDS and WHO, the framework we have developed can be at the forefront of the Indian government’s efforts to curb HIV.”
Despite a nearly 60 percent drop in HIV prevalence over the past decade, the epidemic persists among India’s most vulnerable populations, such as sex workers and intravenous drug users. ICRW experts say this suggests that more is needed to reduce barriers – like stigma and discrimination – that certain groups face in accessing HIV treatment, care and prevention.
Indeed, tackling stigma is a key component in NACO’s latest phase of programming in response to the epidemic.
For ICRW’s study, researchers worked in partnership with five organizations in three states to carry out a variety of activities aimed at decreasing stigma and discrimination. Specifically, the project took place among university faculty, female sex workers living with HIV, local government members, hospital workers and leadership teams in workplaces.
ICRW ultimately determined that the global framework for reducing HIV-related stigma could indeed be adapted for India. ICRW found that to do so would require:
- Addressing a fear of HIV infection and social judgment that is prevalent among many different populations
- Working with several key groups in the same setting to influence the different factors that drive stigma, such a fear of infection through casual contact
- Focusing on how HIV-related stigma may also intersect with other types of stigma and discrimination – such as that related to one’s caste or occupation
- Working with family and peers of populations affected by HIV
- Using a range of activities to engage a variety of groups – from families to institutions – to help foster an environment that can support lasting change
- Creating opportunities to meet members of groups who experience stigma – such as transgender people – to help break down discriminatory attitudes
“Our findings will set the stage for a right move forward by the national government as it carries out efforts to address the HIV epidemic,” Verma said. “Our experience in India also demonstrates that the global framework ICRW designed can be adapted by other countries eager to address the underlying factors, like stigma and discrimination, that fuel HIV transmission and impede people’s access to services.”
Watch a video of participant attitudes toward HIV-related stigma here.
Read the full summary report, “A Global HIV Stigma Reduction Framework Adapted and Implemented in Five Settings in India."