Traditional role and identity of 'Hijra' community deters it to take charge and participate in HIV intervention programme

Published: July 21, 2010

Traditional role and identity of ‘Hijra’ community deters it to take charge and participate in HIV intervention programme

A. Joshi, R. Dhillon

SPACE (Society for People’s Awareness, Care & Empowerment), Delhi, India

Issues: The ‘Hijra’ community in India have a distinct status in the society. Though marginalized from the beginning, the community presents itself and perceived by society as asexual beings. However, the same reason deters the community from accessing basic HIV intervention services.

Description: An intensive study of 75 ‘Hijras’ carried out in Delhi, India to learn the reasons of their exclusion in HIV programme. The study revealed that 84% of them also have multiple sexual partners. None of the 75 even access free condoms in the fear that they will lose their respect and status. 93% shared that their Gurus’/masters stop them from participating in HIV prevention programme as HIV is essentially transmitted through sexual route and being ‘HIjras’ they cannot let anyone even think that ‘HIjras’ are involved in any sexual activity. 85% believed that such programme are for men and gays and hence do not want to be part of it. All 75 of them responded that the programmes are highly stigmatized. Participation leads to greater stigma, labeling and discrimination especially within the community. Community support and earning opportunities severely get affected if their HIV positive status becomes known even to their Gurus’ who eventually throw them out. Out of the 75 only 9 have got tested for HIV and 4 of them are positive. Only one of them is on ART. The other 3 fear being seen on ART Centre in a Govt. setting with least confidentiality and privacy is doubly stigmatized.

Lessons learned:

  • Reducing stigma surrounding HIV,sex and gender needs to be seriously worked upon.
  • HIV intervention programme needs to be community specific and the socio-cultural aspects of the community need to be taken into account.

Next steps: Initiative taken to run parallel intervention for Hijras’ community and not club them with MSM interventions

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