Since 2018, Blossom Trust is involved in a new government project in Tamil Nadu. The goal is to bring about behavior change among population groups whose risk/vulnerabilities of contracting STI/HIV infection are high. The program is a collaboration between the Tamil State Aids Control Society (TNSACS) and several NGOS and CSOs.
Trapped in a cycle of poverty due to LGBTQ+ stigma and discrimination, it is nearly impossible for transgender individuals to find employment. In addition, UNAIDS research (2017) demonstrates how social exclusion leads to a lack of education and poor sanitation. With few options to support themselves, many transgender individuals are forced to take up dangerous sex work.
As a consequence, the transgender community is vulnerable to physical abuse, sexual violence, and HIV/AIDS. A targeted intervention towards the transgender community is thus needed to work toward the larger government goal: ensuring that every person living with HIV has access to quality care and is treated with dignity.
Our Solution: behavioural change
The intervention programme targets Female Sex Workers (FSW), Men who have Sex with Men (MSM), Injecting Drug Users (IDU) and Transgender (TG)– and Bridge population which includes Truckers and Migrants. Blossom focuses on the transgender population in Kanchipuram. Interventions include condom promotion (distribution + behaviour change communication) and the creation of a toll-free helpline number for High-Risk Groups to register complaints on stigma and discrimination. The respective District AIDS Prevention and Control Units (DAPCUs) will take the primary action. Blossom also utilises diverse strategies such as health camps and syphilis testing to identify persons with STIs/HIV so transgender individuals can receive the healthcare they need.
Improving the socioeconomic status
Besides working on behaviour change to prevent STIs/HIV, Blossom also sought to improve the socioeconomic status of the transgender communities and empower transgender individuals to become self-reliant advocates for their own rights. Through a team of peer educators, Blossom has started several community-based activities to advocate for the health rights of the transgender community. The team aims to sensitize a diverse group of actors such as healthcare providers, the relevant government departments and religious leaders. Furthermore, community events and hot-spot meetings are set up to spread awareness about gender, sex and sexuality and misconceptions.
Blossom Trust would like to start a bathroom project as part of the existing transgender project. Safe public bathrooms will allow transgender individuals to access a public space with dignity and free from harassment. Our bathroom project in the busy Tambaram Bus Station in Chennai will provide autonomy and a means of self-reliance for the transgender community. With this independence, the transgender community will be in a better position to advocate for their rights.