Doctors Sujai and Lavanya Suneetha, of ACET Nireekshana India, offer compassionate care to those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS in and around Hyderabad in India.
India has a rapidly growing HIV and AIDS problem, with an estimated 1 million people infected or affected. Many of the poorest struggle to get access to government health programmes and ACET Nireekshana offers diagnosis, counselling, medicines and nutrition to over 1,000 people and their families.
From a clinic held in the Suneethas' front room, the work has expanded rapidly to a specialist centre as well as satellite treatment and care centres held in local churches in and around Hyderabad, usually in the poorest areas.
ACET Nireekshana India continues to change lives as this story shows.
We have been in the service to a HIV lady who recently lost her husband and was rescued from committing suicide by drowning. This desperate situation was the result of ill advice and ignorance of the people about AIDS who came to the funeral of her husband, who told her to stay away from her children, cooking, and touching anyone including her children. From that day onwards she refused to take medicines and did not eat food. Her children could not do anything and a local pastor asked help from Nireekshana. A team from Nireekshana went to her place and counselled and prayed for her.
Nireekshana ACET project (AIDS Care, Education & Training) is a community based project dedicated to the compassionate care and support of people living with HIV/AIDS using a holistic approach.
Its vision is that people affected by HIV/AIDS will experience fullness of life, health and have a spirit of hope.
Nireekshana provides medical, clinic-based services to people living with AIDS as well as community outreach services to educate and create awareness on HIV and AIDS. It is staffed by 15 core staff, including doctors, a scientist, 5 Research Scholars and part time staff. Doctors and others volunteer at the clinic regularly.
The activities of Nireekshana can be broadly grouped as below
1. Clinic based HIV/AIDS services.
2. Outreach Community care, AIDS Awareness & Training.
4. Holistic support to each HIV patient.
Clinic Based HIV/AIDS Services
Nireekshana operates a drop-in health care centre in Hyderabad. Here individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS are offered counseling, medical treatment of Opportunistic Infections (OI's), Cotrimoxazole prophylaxis and care and support services. All services are presently offered free of charge.
Most of the patients are referred to the clinic by local & village leaders and other health & community based organizations from a radius of about 200 km. Patients are counseled one-on-one as well as along with their families, touching areas of physical, emotional and psychological need. The clinic provides a safe place where individuals and families living with HIV can discuss their fears in a secure, confidential and supportive environment. Counseling on personal, emotional and social matters is a significant component of the approach. Advice and support to help family relationships care for the sick and dying, and planning the future of spouses and children is part of the work done here.
The clinic's medical services are almost exclusively for treatment and prevention of opportunistic infections (OI's) such as Tuberculosis (TB) (AKT4), Respiratory, Gastrointestinal, skin and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Patients are referred to the Government Voluntary Counseling and Testing Centre (VCTC) for HIV testing and chest symptomatic to the Government TB hospital for investigation and to receive anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment and Anti Tuberculosis treatment (ATT). These patients are regularly followed up and counseled on treatment adherence and provided vitamins, mineral and nutritional supplements.
The clinic service is focused on providing a continuum of care for affected families. Therefore, in addition to it's ongoing counseling of widows/widowers and orphans of AIDS, it finances the continued education of selected children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS and provides nutritional support to selected families. Children and families are selected for support on a needs basis, with a preference given to widows, HIV positive children and the girl child. An estimated 2500 family members receive various other kinds of care and support services from the clinic. This includes about 300 widows and 1000 children (216 of whom are confirmed HIV positive).
There are now over 2300 HIV ve's registered at the Nireekshana health care clinic at Hyderabad. About 600 to 800 of them are on regular follow-up every month at the clinic. About 60 patients have HIV-TB co-infection and are on ATT from different DOTS centres. Most of them are Pulmonary TB and the remaining Extra pulmonary TB.
About 200 patients are presently being taken care of at a sub centre of Nireekshana at Nandyal about 300 km from Hyderabad, which is named 'Nireekshana Nandyal'. A few of the patients at this centre are HIV-TB co infected and are on ATT. A staff of Nireekshana is in charge of the centre and is assisted by local volunteer doctors who have been trained at Nireekshana Hyderabad. This centre is carrying out other supportive activities of Nireekshana in villages and towns within a 100 km radius.
An additional 100 patients and their families are being taken care of at the other satellite centre at Vishakapatnam, a town 600 km away from Hyderabad. The centre is staffed by 2 doctors and 10 other staff/Volunteers.
Outreach Community Care, AIDS Awareness & Training
Nireekshana ACET doctors and volunteers work at medical clinics/camps held monthly in some of the slum areas in Hyderabad. These one-day clinics are staffed in partnership with other local NGOs, to enable slum residents access to much needed, free treatment of OI's and referral for CD4 count and ART at the Government centres.
Nireekshana also carries out informal HIV/AIDS awareness raising activities in slum communities, schools, colleges, churches and community organizations in and around Hyderabad. Different tools (such as role plays, songs, seminars/lectures, information pamphlets) are used as appropriate to each audience, to inform people on the ways that HIV can and cannot be contracted, to promote prevention by 'Abstinence' and 'Being Faithful' and to foster a more 'Compassionate' response to people suffering from HIV/AIDS. In the last 2 years about 60 such programs were conducted reaching over 5000 individuals.
Nireekshana doctors attend and present at formal training workshops on HIV/AIDS for health and development professionals and provide consulting services to other NGOs around India and overseas.
Dr. Sujai and Dr. Lavanya are recognised as PhD supervisors by the Nagarjuna University and presently supervise the research of 5 Research Scholars. The focus of the lab research presently is on the serological and molecular mechanisms of HIV-TB co- infection and on neuropathy in HIV/AIDS. Some of this work has been presented at National and International Scientific Conferences.
Holistic support to each HIV patient
Each patient will get prayed and counseled in Biblical principles and will be counseled to depend on God in the time of need. There is specific group which will pray for the wellbeing of the patient and the family only if the patient wants. They are also prayed individually if they are in need.