Since 2018, Blossom Trust has been involved in a new Government-backed project in Tamil Nadu. The goal is to bring about behavioural change among population groups, who are considered to be at high-risk of STI/HIV infection. The program is a collaboration between the Tamil State Aids Control Society (TNSACS) and several NGOs and CSOs.
In India, Transgender (TG) women have long faced social marginalisation, and studies indicate that TG women continue to face gender-based discrimination. Despite being skilled individuals, this discrimination often manifests in exclusion from the employment sector, with the National Human Rights Commission Report (2018) finding 92% of TGs denied mainstream employment. Consequently, TG women are restricted to working in the unorganised sector; in street entertainment, informal collections, or the sex industry.
Work in the unorganised sector poses constant threat and insecurity to the TG community. The women are vulnerable to physical abuse, harassment and sexual violence. Crucially, without protection, the sex industry exposes TG women to high risk of contracting STIs or HIV/AIDs. Coupled with pervasive stigma around a positive HIV status and discrimination faced in some medical facilities, HIV+ TG individuals avoid testing and cannot access the necessary preventative measures or medication. Accordingly, a 'targeted intervention' for the transgender community is needed to work toward the over-arching 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), Transgender (TG) and Bridge populations (which includes Truckers and Migrants). The Blossom Trust team 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 then take the primary action. Blossom Trust also provides a counselling and support service, and utilises diverse strategies such as health camps, syphilis testing to identify STIs/HIVs, signposting to medical care centres and frequent outreach, to ensure Transgender individuals can access the healthcare they need.
Improving the socioeconomic status
Besides working on behavioural change to prevent STIs/HIV, Blossom Trust has sought to improve the socioeconomic status of the TG communities and empower TG individuals to become self-reliant and advocates for their rights. Through a team of Peer Educators, Blossom has initiated several community-based activities to advocate for the health rights of the TG community. The Peer Educators act as the representatives of the community, as well respected leaders, and aim to sensitise a diverse group of actors: such as healthcare providers, Government departments and religious leaders. Furthermore, community events and hot-spot meetings are set up to spread awareness about gender, sex and sexuality, and LGBTQ+ rights. In coming projects, we intend to expand into providing vocational skills classes and implement micro-finance Self Help Groups, to encourage the transition into the organised sector, and provide economic security for upward social mobility.
The current ambitions of Blossom Trust for the TG community is to set up an Advocacy and Capacity-building for Transgenders (ACT) Network. Stemming from the success of our Peer Educators - and responding to the needs of our community - the idea is to train members of the community to become TG Leads and TG Champions. With a rights-based approach, these individuals will be given the skills to advocate for the rights of their communities, and the ACT Network will provide a sub-National platform for TGs to engage in dialogue, participate in local governance and ensure their voices are reflected in legislation.