SNEHA DOUTHYAM: A PRELUDE TO THE COLLABORATION OF KSACS WITH FAITH BASED ORGANIZATIONS IN KERALA IN PREVENTING HIV/AIDS AMONG OFF CAMPUS YOUTH

It is obvious from the past that faith based organizations (FBO) have great significance in the development sector, especially in public health promotion programmes as they can play an expanded role in accessing the hard-to-reach and vulnerable population groups. Kerala State AIDS Control Society (KSACS) recognizes their role in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment/care of the infected and the affected. KSACS is always keen to associate with such organizations in all possible areas.

‘Sneha Douthyam’ is such an action programme designed to work in association with an illustrious faith based organization in Kerala named Kerala Catholic Youth Movement (KCYM) to promote voluntary blood donation and HIV awareness among off-campus youth in the age of 15-29 years. This is one of the premier HIV prevention initiatives implemented in association with a faith based organization representing a major religious group by a State AIDS Control Society in India.

Kerala Catholic Youth Movement (KCYM) is the official state/regional Organization promoted by the Kerala catholic Bishops Council (KCBC). KCBC is the permanent association of Catholic Bishops from all the 29 Ecclesiastical Units viz. Arch-diocese and diocese in Kerala. KCBC represent the Christian population in Kerala that comes to about nineteen percent of the total population of Kerala and KCYM represents all Christian youth aged between 15-35 years. KCYM is one of the largest, most stable, and most extensively disbursed organizations in Kerala having grass-root level infrastructures to reach out to the unreached. Being able to leverage volunteers and other resources for proposed actions with minimal efforts, working with them is a cost effective method.

Nearly nine million people of Kerala are in the age group of 15 – 29, defined as youth in the context of HIV/AIDS interventions. The youth with their physical, psychological and social attributes are more susceptible to sexual curiosity and behaviour that make them vulnerable to HIV infection. KSACS has been trying to reach them through varied channels with relevant messages and information to protect them from HIV infection. One of the major groups that KSACS found difficulty in addressing properly is off-campus youth. The programme, ‘Sneha Douthyam’ evolved from this need. The very concept of the programme promotes informed peer leadership among the youth to create positive attitudes and values that hinder pre-marital/extramarital sexual contact. It visualizes generating the habit of regular blood donation among the youth so as to ensure surplus availability of safe blood for saving lives in need.

‘Sneha Douthyam’ is an action oriented programme that instills necessary values and attitudes to avoid premarital or extramarital sexual relations by manipulating peer influence effectively. The programme tries to develop the habit of regular blood donation among the youth, essential to overcome the present shortage of safe blood. The programme offers necessary information, education and skill development programmes to the youth to develop less-risky and positive lifestyle that avoid sexual debauchedness including pre-marital or extramarital sex or multi-partner sex. It motivates the youth to avail services like ICTC, STI Clinic, etc. It also educates them on the need and scope of voluntary blood donation and motivates them to become a regular volunteer at a nearby blood bank.

‘Sneha Douthyam’ will cover a minimum of 175000 youth in the age group of 15 to 29 years with HIV/AIDS information and motivation for periodical voluntary blood donation. KSCAS will support KCYM to develop a minimum of 20 trainers in each diocese. With the help of these trainers, KCYM will develop at least 50 well informed peer leaders in each parish unit, totaling total number will be around 17500. They will be the harbingers of change among their peers. They will positively influence their peers and create safe behavior in the context of HIV/AIDS and develop volunteerism in regular blood donation.

In addition to the above, the programme will effectively use folk-theatre groups, promoted by KCYM in the entire 29 diocese, in communicating HIV/AIDS messages and stigma/discrimination reduction messages to the general public. It is also agreed to include HIV/AIDS and VBD education as a component in the pre-marital course conducted by the diocesan authorities that covers 43500 youth directly every year.

KSCAS recognizes that the involvement of KCYM or such other faith based organizations in HIV prevention and care will be extremely helpful to reach the hard-core target groups with effective messages and services that prevent the ill effects of HIV/AIDS. The significance of this approach is that it will not hurt the community, as the conceptualization and the planning is participatory with the community members, it will be aligned with the social norms and traditional moral value system of the community. Such collaborations can ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of the programme.


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BEST PRACTICE DOCUMENTATION UNIT
IEC DIVISION, KERALA STATE AIDS CONTROL SOCIETY
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, KERALA
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Management Support by:
Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust (HLFPPT)
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