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AIDS Competence Process (ACP) in India

The National Learning Event for the AIDS Competence Process (ACP) in India, which is a part of the Action Group work of the AIDS Community of Solution Exchange was held at Mumbai from 8 to 10 July 2008. This Learning Event marks one year of the AIDS Competence Program (ACP) in India. Throughout the year, participating organizations have been developing the practice of AIDS Competence in their organizations, while stimulating AIDS Competence response in communities. Moreover, during the year, organizations shared their experiences starting at the kick-off event in Gangavathi in July 2007, then in a follow-up event in November 2007 held in Mumbai, as well as a support visit in March 2008 at Nagercoil.

At http://www.solutionexchange-un.net.in/aids/events/event-01-080708-01.doc the report of the National Learning Event is available. Participants in the National Learning Event have been enthusiastic particularly in establishing ACP in India. Towards strengthening and propagating ACP in India, members had suggested on the final day of the event the next steps which can be seen at page 13 and 14 of this report. Multiple groups in the event emphasized the role of Solution Exchange and support from UNAIDS. Accordingly, a skeletal National ACP facilitation team has been set up to implement the next steps.

The Constellation for AIDS Competence www.aidscompetence.org connects and facilitates local responses to AIDS and Life Competence from around the world. The Constellation and Solution Exchange appreciates the work already done in the Community by the Indian NGOs and expresses our goal to complement this work with ACP. Accordingly, as the chair of the Constellation, together with the Constellation coaches and the emerging facilitation team in India, we sincerely request the members of Solution Exchange to help us with:

  • Detailing the process by which the next steps in the document could be implemented
  • What are the likely hurdles that will be faced by the National ACP facilitation team in India
  • What roles can key stakeholders play to propagate ACP in India

The AIDS Competence Process in India is definitely laudable. The issues of human rights of PLHIV are rarely touched and respect for privacy rarely included in training curriculum. Hence, it would be good if ACP in India could chip in to fill in these thematic gaps. Moreover, the present training modules in the Targeted Interventions are based on NACO guidelines and manuals. There, local training needs assessment is rarely done. It is here that ACP scores over the Targeted Interventions. ACP with its fundamental Community Approach gives a free rein to the Community members to assess their issues, discuss their needs and priorities, delineate their resources, plan their strategies and decide when to implement the community's collective decisions. As those outside the community are most of the time observers, and at the least and best providing technical and facilitator support to this process, there is hardly any input from those outside the community.

To nurture such an approach, and scale up ACP in India to the far-flung remote districts of the country, which has a population of a billion, there is no doubt that a full-time, committed National Facilitation Team (NFT) is the fulcrum to establishing ACP in India. This NFT will depend for its communication, for disseminating knowledge as well as for experience sharing, primarily on an active, dedicated, free, e-discussion forum, web space or site, web blog and so on, for physical meetings, consultations, visits and workshops though required would be costly and therefore rare.

One more point is that with doctors and nurses being busy in Care and Support to spare time for long sessions, a customized training wing of the NFT have to be thought of, for catering to the demand from others like us, who would like to join the group of ACP practitioners. This training could be more effective and practical, if done hands-on during the visits to the Community. ACP in India could incorporate some training and exposure visits. As rightly pointed out in the document, funding support for travel for these visits must be sought and accepted.

The next steps detailed in the report of the National Learning Event (NLE) are skeletal, given the constraint that the groups at the NLE had come up with these steps after a quick brainstorming. So, a lot more has to be done if ACP in India is to come out of its shadows and become the first-thought-about and recommended strategy for communities responding to the HIV epidemic. Accordingly, I would like to see those ACP members pouring out their wish list, as to:

  • What AIDS Competence Practitioners want the National Facilitation Team (NFT) to do,
  • How the NFT must be formed, and expanded,
  • Who would constitute its members,
  • Where would it be located,
  • Which Agencies would support its full or part time staff

These are some of the questions that ACP practitioners could mull over

As to some of the issues that could be taken up by the NFT in India, apart from the ones already discussed, are some which are cross-cutting and yet unique to India. For example, the success of Salvation Army in India's ACP history shows that the NFT could explore how to clone this success after documenting and validating the link of how ACP builds on culture, tradition and religion to put together the community's response to HIV.

National AIDS Control Organization in NACP-III looks at active community participation and ownership for implementation of TIs across the country. So, this is a very appropriate time for ACP to establish itself and take shape in the country. Presently, there are some examples of community led interventions in different part of the country where Women in Sex Work and MSM have taken up issues of HIV and have its connection with socio-economic conditions, Gender, rights, and vulnerability to HIV in their interventions. The knowledge resources they have needs to be shared with others who aspire to achieve for themselves and for their community, what the pioneers have done. However, the followers right now do not have hands-on experience on implementing these aspects.

In this context it is really important to look at ACP since it offers specific approaches and tools which are helpful to facilitate interventions and help managing these resources within the communities by facilitating a process of learning and sharing with each other. Specifically, the SALT tools like the community dream exercise, tools on self assessment and the creation of knowledge assets can be very helpful.

At Siaap, we did the self assessment process with an association of Women in Sex Work. The key learning was that response to HIV had become a part of their day-to-day life. However, when they compared themselves with the general community, particularly with their family members they realized that they were far behind. This is the state in which most of the general community members are. They have now envisaged a dream for caring for their family and community members at large. Once seen as victims and discriminated they have moved to a stage of being empowered, playing the role of educators and care givers.

Other Siaap initiatives in ACP are:

  • Introduced ACP among more staff members
  • Transfer and Self Assessment with MSM and WSW Communities
  • Member of forum and e-space on ACP
  • Initiated ACP with other NGO
  • The AIDS Competence Process (ACP) is so akin to mainstreaming HIV that we are involved in. Hence it makes sense for us to take up ACP. Moreover, Mainstreaming is seen increasingly as an effective strategy for a stronger long term response to HIV in India as it addresses the multiple facets and underlying causes of HIV in the long-term. There is an important need to build on the enabling environment to support national efforts in mainstreaming HIV in development responses. ACP is presently able to achieve mainstreaming of HIV at whatever decentralized level that it is facilitated in.

    Bhoruka Public Welfare Trust was selected as Mainstreaming Resource Unit (MRU) of Bihar by UNDP. This mainstreaming effort is working with government and non-government entities by strengthening systems, strengthening capacities and building synergies and partnerships. It is working with various levels of the government including district administration, women's federations and youth to ensure greater participation of community leaders, NGOs and local government in the HIV prevention activities. Thematically, this is very much the focus of ACP too. Territorially, MRU-Bihar is focusing on five districts of Bihar- Katihar, Purba Champaran, Lakhisarai, Araria and Sitamarhi. Initially, it was focused to mainstream HIV mainly with following departments: Panchayat, Rural Development, Tourism, Tribal Development, Urban Development and Railways.