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Advocating for access to treatment for people living with HIV in India

<p>Feature story</p>

January 3, 2013

The Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+) was set up in 2000 by a couple of friends who operated out of a spare bedroom in an addiction rehabilitation centre.

Their goal was to provide support and advocate for access to HIV treatment for thousands of people in India who were living with HIV but didn’t know where to turn.

“I had seen many people dying because they didn’t have treatment,” said Loon Gangte, the President and a founding member of DNP+.

“I was working in a hospice at the time and I used to attend two or three funerals a month. I tried to teach people living with HIV to think positively, but drugs are expensive and people could not afford them. There was no access to antiretroviral treatment.”

From its humble beginnings, DNP+ has grown to 1300 members and a board of seven. At the XIX International AIDS conference held in Washington, DC in 2012, DNP+ received the Red Ribbon Award in the advocacy and human rights category. The award recognized its continuous and determined support for free antiretroviral treatment, strong campaigning on issues of intellectual property rights to ensure on-going access to affordable treatment and for its work in improving the lives of people living with HIV.

India has the largest number of people living with HIV in Asia and the Pacific. But its response has been hampered by high levels of stigma which remains an on-going challenge for DNP+.

“Advocacy is not an easy job,” said Mr Gangte, who has himself been faced with HIV-related discrimination. “No one likes us because we challenge the status quo, but we are not here to do what you like!”

Mr Gangte said that as well as the much needed financial support, the Red Ribbon Award has brought international recognition to the work that DNP+ is doing and the difference its members are making within their communities.

“It’s a stamp of approval from the international community,” he said. “(It shows) that although we do not have much financial support and although we are small in scale, the world is still recognizing our work.”

“Gaining international approval is another step towards building a larger and more vibrant positive community,” he added.