Connecting local responses around the world
Provision of youth-friendly counselling services was conceived as a specific strategy by South India AIDS Action Programme (SIAAP) to address the increasing risk of young people to STIs and HIV and to provide a safe space to understand sexuality related aspects. It offers the space for youth to share their dreams, fears, anxieties and understand the physical changes that are part of this ‘growing up’ period as well as promotes ‘safe’ and sexually responsible behaviours. Fifty-two (four in each district) Youth-Friendly Counselling Centres (YFC) were established by South India AIDS Action Programme between December 2009 to February 2010 as part of the European Union-HIVOS funded ‘Rural Youth Project’. It caters to both men and women, with specific emphasis on the 15-29 age-group. These centres have been established with the support of the local panchayat leaders, through offering rent-free spaces in their respective panchayats.
Counsellors have been chosen from among the local community and have been provided a 10-day training in counselling, sex and sexuality in order to equip them to deal with the sexual health needs of youth. Counselling services are offered both at the centre as well as the field areas covering one Block in thirteen districts in Tamil Nadu as detailed in the map provided below. Condoms are also provided to youth,
Till date, a total of 3856 youth (1843 for STI and 2013 for sexual health) have accessed counselling services, out of which 52% are women and 48% men.
The Youth-Friendly Counsellors are being provided group supervision once every month to help them deal with their clients more effectively and to document their cases. Learning is facilitated through guidance provided by Counselling Supervisors in the form of role-plays, case studies, modelling or by facilitating discussion. This process has been useful for counsellors to understand the concept and process involved in partner counselling, uses of condoms, challenges of growing up, to avoid a judgemental approach towards clients and to understand the difference between counselling and education.
Involving the Panchayat President and other members, VHN, ICTC counsellors, Youth Clubs and SHGs is crucial for inculcating a sense of ownership and for long-term sustainability.