A Comprehensive Approach and Unified Effort Illustrates How a Program Can Flourish
Over the last week I have been dabbling in different areas of the Reliance Industry Limited's Hazira HIV/TB Center that has received so much international praise from the United Nations and Business Magazines. I use the word dabbling because it is nearly impossible to cover all that they do in a matter of six days. HIV organizations usually excel in either prevention or treatment because both require a great deal of attention, dedication, and manpower. The Hazira program is one of the special ones that has managed to do both, and do them very well.
In regards to treatment, they take a holistic approach and understand their community’s needs. Poverty is a major issue and the majority of the clients deal with the everyday struggles that it entails. A very poor living condition is only one of the obstacles faced in daily life. Understanding this the Center provides HIV, TB, and opportunistic infection treatment – all at either 50% cost or free of charge. Widows, children under 15, and anyone who is deemed temporarily unable to physically work do not pay for any services, lab work, or drugs provided. The system set up with the government has the center paying for all second line drugs and opportunistic infections treatment (namely TB) while the government provides all the first line medications and prophylactics. Furthermore, Reliance has given a truck to the Center to do two pick-ups from a central hospital in the city. This truck comes packed with at least ten people for both trips. Without it treatment would not be an option for some because the 20-minute travel to the Center would simply be too much to afford.
Now you may be asking what the holistic thing is all about. Well, for starters they provide pre and post test counseling to infected persons and families and no one is placed on treatment until they have gone two rounds of counseling that stresses the importance of medication adherence. Taking your medications on time and never skipping doses is the best possible way to limit the chances of developing resistance and having to move to the next class of drugs, which are much more costly and stressful on the body. In addition, they have a yoga class set up that is specifically designed for HIV positive people. They play light music throughout the sick wards and try their best to provide a family atmosphere. For orphaned children they have set up a family partnering system that sees Reliance families helping the children with costs of education, food, and odds and ends. Lastly, a garden is in the process of being created for HIV positive people to grow vegetables and the majority of staff employed is HIV positive.
The Center’s partnership with a local NGO and the Gujarati State Network of People + has taken prevention literally to the streets. While the NGO officials do talks and counseling with sex workers and migrant labor shanty towns, the Network follows up each new case with one on one meetings and support groups; therefore providing the safety network that is invaluable for individuals faced with the stark reality of being HIV + in a developing country. The Center does its share of prevention work as well. All of Reliance’s nearly 10,000 Hazira site workers must go through an HIV and TB learning session to get their worksite IDs validated and they also do annual check ups. Truck drivers are welcomed to the gates of the Hazira site with an HIV pamphlet and a three pack of condoms and lastly one Thursday a month the head staff go to three factories and get the CEO to sign legal documents that state HIV workers rights and prevention campaigns to workers.
Like I said in the beginning it is difficult to immerse yourself in all that the Center does, but it does not go unnoticed or unwritten. The results over three complete years are concrete. Over 1800 HIV positive people registered at the clinic. Over 2200 STDs treated. Over 500 people on Highly Active HIV medication (HAART). Over 250 people on TB treatment. More over they have begun to change the culture of HIV and the stigma surrounding the disease through all the prevention work. In summary, the most important thing to take from this post is the accomplishments that can be achieved and realized when different entities come together with a common goal and each one contributing with their own strengths.