JSK World AIDS Day Outreach at the Thane Railroad Station

December 12, 2013

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Saturday the 30th of November was a ‘red letter day’ for the Jeevan Sahara Kendra (JSK) – no, make that a ‘red-ribbon day.’   In solidarity with the 35 million people world-wide who are living with HIV, and in remembrance of the 36 million estimated to have died so far to AIDS, and in the hope that no more new infections will take place, the Jeevan Sahara Kendra decided to mark this year’s World AIDS Day with a public outreach to help the general population in Thane stop the spread of HIV.

The Jeevan Sahara Kendra has been working in Thane for 11 years now – helping people with HIV and their families get personalized HIV care in their homes through a combination of personal and family counseling as well as monitoring and supervising ART and other life-saving medications.   This work is further strengthened by an integrated counseling and testing centre (ICTC) which we run in collaboration with the Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS), an outpatient clinic and in-patient care that is provided at the JSK Community Care Centre in the Lok Hospital Building.   While most of our work is in caring for people who already have the disease, JSK makes is a point to periodically reach out to the broader population to help prevent the further spread of this disease.

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The Thane railway station is the life-line of the city, with an estimated 6.5 lakh passengers passing through every day.  We decided to make this the focus of our prevention work for our World AIDS Day 2013 intervention on Saturday 30th of November.

HIV Information Table

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Having received the necessary permissions from the railway and police authorities, our team set up an information booth at the railway station near platform no. 1 and 2.   An informative poster exhibit was put up – including ones made by our adolescent groups which include HIV positive young people and children of people who have HIV.

Free literature about HIV in various languages was also available – for which we want to especially thank OM books and bro George Verwer for their generous provision of this.   Throughout the day interested people came to the table to pick up literature and to talk with our staff and volunteers about HIV/AIDS.  A number of impromptu counseling sessions were held – and a number of people were referred to the testing and counseling camp being held simultaneously at the auto / taxi stand area.

All through the day our staff and volunteers gave out literature, pinned the red ribbon on members of the public to signify a commitment to ending AIDS, and talked about how it is possible to live a life free of HIV.

???????????????????????????????By the end of the day the JSK information booth had distributed a staggering 5058 copies of the booklet “Ten Great Reasons not to have Sex before Marriage” to the public.  The bulk of the copies were in Marathi (2500), Hindi (1460) and English (1000) with a small number in Malayalam, Telegu and Tamil (total 98) given out as well.  In addition the team distributed 350 packets of information from MSACS, as well as 450 copies of “HIV and Life Positive” in Hindi as well as a number of other miscellaneous HIV related literatures.

Free HIV Testing Camp

While all of this was going on, the other part of the JSK team was conducting a free HIV Counselling and Testing Camp in collaboration with Rashtravadi Rickshaw-Taxi Chalak Malak Mahasangh.  We had put up a shamiana the day before so that the counselling and blood collection would take place in full confidentiality.

Our JSK staff and volunteers took the “Ten Great Reasons not to have Sex before Marriage” booklets and red ribbons and gave them to all the auto-rickshaw drivers as they came to pick up their passengers.  Others talked with taxi drivers and autorickshaw drivers and encouraged them to get tested.

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The results were spectacular.  All through the day a steady stream of people came for HIV counseling and testing.  Our staff and volunteers registered each person before the counseling session and then helped guide them to the appropriate rooms.  After they had received pre-testing counseling, and had their blood sample taken, the JSK team and volunteers then gave them a small snack and continued sharing information about HIV and how to prevent its spread with the participants.

???????????????????????????????Over the period of the day, our counselors gave HIV pre-test counseling to 139 people.  Of these, 131 (including 4 women) agreed for voluntary testing and gave their blood samples for the HIV test.

The overwhelming majority of the participants were auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers – with about 10% of the participants being members of the general public who had been met at the JSK information table and also came to be tested for HIV.

One man – who was due to travel later that day to Rajesthan – postponed his trip to be able to come and find out his test result (which we were able to tell him the next day was HIV negative!).

Significantly, most of the people who were counseled had or where engaged in risky sexual behavior.  The camp offered them an opportunity to come face to face with the possible consequences of their actions.  At least 4 of the participants told the counselors that they had been engaged in homosexual encounters.

???????????????????????????????After the counseling and blood collection was over, we took the samples back to the JSK centre to be processed.  We were so happy to find that not one of the 131 samples were positive for HIV!  This means that though most of our friends have been exposed sexually at some time or the other, they have been spared the life-challenging consequences of actually being infected with the disease.   Our counselors met with those tested on the next two days to give the HIV test results – and have the pleasure of telling each one that they are ‘HIV negative’ – but that they need to thank God for that and change their behavior if they would like to stay negative.

Our staff and volunteers managed to distribute another 1700 copies of “Ten Great Reasons not to have Sex before Marriage”  in Marathi (1000), Hindi (500) and English (200) over the course of the day to different autorickshaw and taxi drivers, as well as putting red ribbons on them.

All in all it was a memorable day for the Jeevan Sahara Kendra, and we are grateful for all our staff and volunteers who put in so much work to get the job done.   We know that the literature that went out will help change lives into the coming days – and that each person tested will have a new understanding of his or her own behaviours.  We are grateful to the leaders of the to the Rashtravadi Rickshaw-Taxi Chalak Malak Mahasangh as well as the Thane Railway Station and Police authorities for cooperating with us to make this World AIDS Day 2013 outreach a grand success.  

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JSK CCC

December 15, 2011

 


Finding out whether you have HIV or not

November 25, 2010

There are a lot of important decisions to make in life.

One of them is finding out your own HIV status.  Are you infected with the HIV virus or not?

There is only one way to know – get the test done.  Which test?  The HIV-antibody test where a small amount of blood is taken and checked to see whether it contains HIV-antibodies.

If the test is ‘reactive’ to HIV-antibodies, it means that the body has recognised HIV in its blood.  If the blood sample came from me – it would mean that I am HIV positive.

Why should I know about my status?

Here are three key reasons:

1.  For my body’s sake.

If I am HIV positive – then the sooner I know about it – the sooner I can take the appropriate treatment.   Quick detection and prompt treatment means a far longer life.  Avoiding treatment doesn’t help – infact it harms.  The later I start treatment – the more damage the virus has done to me.   Remember that we must never give up hope!

Getting the right treatment for HIV makes all the difference.  A study in the US says that the average life expectancy – after finding out about HIV – is now 24 years!  And who knows how much longer I can live if new sets of medicines come on the scene in the coming years!  But all of this is useless unless I find out whether I have HIV or not – and then go to trusted people for treatment.

Do you need to know where to get treatment? We can help you at Jeevan Sahara Kendra.  If you are living in Thane we can directly provide treatment for you.  If you live outside – we will be able to guide you to a local provider who can help you move forward!  Come and visit us with all your medical papers!

2.  To protect others.

If I am HIV positive – then I want to protect those I love.  I will want to make sure that anyone I have had sexual contact with will be tested for the disease too.  I will also want to make sure that I do not infect anyone else.  Its bad enought that I have it – why should I spread it further.

If I am negative – wow! what a relief!  But it does mean that I will have to be very careful now to make sure that I do not get exposed to HIV again.  Best bet by far – being sexually faithful to my mutually faithful spouse!  Anything before marriage and any sex outside marriage is just too risky!  A negative report is a real gift – I won’t want to waste it!

There is a small chance that if I am negative now but have had a sexual exposure to a person who has HIV in the last 3 months before the test – that I may actually have the disease.  The chances of this are very small – but to make sure I really do not have it – I will need to have another HIV antibody test in 3 months to make sure.  Some people call this the ‘window’ period.  If I have not had any risk exposure in the 3 months prior to the test then I know for sure that I am ‘HIV negative’.

3. For peace of mind

Getting an HIV test can be very scary.  So scary that most of us will never want to really do it.

But if I do not get tested – and I know I have had some kind of exposure – or I am worried that my sexual partner has had some exposure – then that worry will continue to gnaw at me.

Its always better to know the truth!

If I am HIV negative – then I can move on with my life and make sure I do not expose myself again.

If I am HIV positive – then I can also move on in life – I can find out how much the virus has affected my immunity already – and can move forward to get better!

Jesus said at one point: “you will know the truth – and the truth will set you free.”  Knowing about my HIV status gives me the tools to live positively – knowing just what is going on – instead of carrying a huge burden of fear around with me wherever I go.

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So what are you waiting for?  If you believe you have had any kind of exposure that could have been dangerous for HIV – then come and get tested for HIV.

We are happy to help you get tested as Jeevan Sahara Kendra is a govt. recognised Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre.   We provide counselling and HIV testing from 10 am to 5.30 PM from Monday to Friday.

If you are coming from outside Thane or would like a Saturday appointment – please call us at 25899248 during office hours!

Look foward to serving you!


Light a flame – shine a light

September 21, 2010

Life is tough.  And then there is the issue of HIV.

Many of us are afraid to face the truth.  Others of us have a loved one who we think may have HIV.  Most of us don’t know what to do…

A journey of a 1000 miles starts with a single step.   Its the same with any difficult problem.  Until we make a first step we will never see it solved.  Just closing our eyes does not help – in fact it only makes it worse.

Yesterday a man came to Jeevan Sahara Kendra with severe psychiatric problems.  He had been suffering with headaches for a month.  His wife and he knew that they were HIV positive.  But they did not tell anyone for years – because they were too afraid about what others will think.  Now this dear man needs urgent hospitalisation and an MRI scan to find out what is causing the severe problems he is facing.  All this could have been avoided by getting treatment at the right time.  There is still hope for this man – but it is harder to treat him now than it would have been a month ago.

How about you?  Are you scared about whether you may have HIV?  Are you worried about a loved one or a friend who you think may have it?

Tell someone else.  Its not easy, but its necessary.  We can’t go through this alone.  We need each other.  Pray and talk to God.  Get strength to carry you through the difficult times.

But don’t stay silent.  Get up and get an HIV blood test.  Knowing whether you or your loved one has HIV or not makes a huge difference.

If you or the ones you love do not have HIV – then you can move forward and work on ways of not getting exposed again.

If you are HIV positive – or have someone you love who is – then there are real ways that help.  HIV is not an ‘untreatable’ disease.  There are many good ways that we can use medications and other ways to treat the disease.  Like diabetes and some other illnesses – HIV/AIDS is a chronic ‘life-long’ disease – but we can make a huge difference.  You can contact your nearest Govt. ART centre for more guidance.  Or come to us at Jeevan Sahara Kendra if you live here in Thane.

It all depends on you.

Are you willing to act? To light a flame?  To shine a light?


Choices

July 12, 2010

We make many choices in life.

One of the most important choice is actually a whole lot of choices that are related to our married life.

I bring to my life-partner the sum total of the choices that I have made till now.  My life-partner brings with her another set of choices that she has made.  Now we are linking our lives together.  Now we are linking our pasts together into the present – and the future.

Many of us will have made decisions that we are not proud about.  Many of us will have been in situations that we would rather have not entered.  Many of us have memories that are not happy – ones that we wish would go away…

As young people life can be confusing at times.  As not-so-young people life can also be quite confusing too.

Here are some things that we can do when we are confused:

1.  Take a deep breath and stop and think.

2.  Talk to someone whom you can trust.  Be honest about what is going on.

3.  Pray.  God is interested in what is happening.  Ask Him for help.  He hears you.

4.  Don’t be shy to seek help.  There are people who are trained as counsellors and advisors to assist you.

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Here is one important question to ask yourself if you are planning to get married.  It is one that we at Jeevan Sahara Kendra have a lot of experience with:

If you have been sexually active before your marriage – have you been tested for HIV?

Testing is quite scary to many people – but its very important to know the truth.  Especially since you are now going to be united with your life-partner.   There are many things that we may have wished that we had not done.  There are probably areas of our lives that we wish that we had made better choices in.  Well, the past is over.  But now the choice is ours about how to live from now on.

At Jeevan Sahara we want to help you as much as possible.   Call us up for an appointment to talk.  We are here for you.


Hope

April 10, 2009

flameThere comes a time when each one of us has to face the truth.

For some of us, it is when we get a laboratory report – we have been tested for the HIV anti-body.  The test result tells us that our body has the HIV virus.  We are HIV positive.

What now?

What shall I do?  Where should I go?  Who should I tell?  What will happen to me?  To my loved ones?  To those who I dream about looking after?

So many questions crowd into our minds.

We have heard that HIV is a dreadful disease – but never thought I would have it – or someone that we love has it.

Stop.  Take a deep breath.  Think.  Pray.

It is really, really important not to give up HOPE.

Whether it is the doctors and social workers at Jeevan Sahara Kendra, or dedicated people in other places – there are people who love you and want the very best for you.

HIV/AIDS is a serious condition – lets not deny this – but there are many things that can be done these days.  At Jeevan Sahara Kendra we have been working with families who have HIV for 7 years now – and have seen some wonderful transformations take place.

The important thing is not to give up hope.  And not to give in to despair.  To fight against the lies that whisper in our ears: ‘what’s the use?’ ‘nobody loves me’ ‘I am a failure and a hindrance to others’ and many such lies.

Living with HIV/AIDS is not easy – but it is being done – by many wonderful and courageous people all around us.  We want to help you if you have questions.  Please contact us at any time – you are valuable and precious.

If you do not have HIV, or do not have someone with HIV in your family – would you consider ‘adopting’ someone wtih HIV into your family?  You can pray for them – meet them and bless them in so many ways.  Besides the help that our brothers and sisters with HIV need – we all need to be thanking God for His kindness to us each day.   Please contact us about how we can help facilitate this for you.

We all need hope.  To move forward.  To live today.

Live in Hope!

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written on Good Friday 2009


Counselling and Testing for HIV/AIDS

February 13, 2009

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Jeevan Sahara Kendra is happy to announce that we are now able to counsel and test for HIV at the JSK centre.

Anyone who would like to be tested for HIV – or has a family member or friend they feel should be tested – is welcome to come between 9.30 AM and 5 PM from Monday to Friday and from 9.30 AM to 1 PM on Saturdays.

Our experienced counsellors will meet with and explain the HIV test and possible outcomes to those who need the test.  After getting voluntary consent, a blood sample will be taken which will be testing for HIV anti-bodies using 3 different reagents.

Though the cost of the reagents alone is over Rs. 400 we will collect a minimum fee of Rs. 10 per person.   [note: individuals who would like to contribute more are welcome to do so – this will allow us to test more people who cannot afford the costs].

The test result will be given along with post-test counselling on the next working day.  All results will be confidential.

The Jeevan Sahara Kendra will be able to help people who test positive through medical supervision and home-care, as well as being able to refer to the government health facilities.

Please call up at (022) 25899248 for further information.