Hiv/Aids

MDACS outreach project identifies HIV cases among vulnerable populations | Mumbai news

Mumbai: The Mumbai District AIDS Control Society (MDACS) has achieved early success in its outreach project aimed at testing vulnerable populations for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Over the past six months, the autonomous body of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation identified 31 individuals who underwent HIV tests, with five receiving positive results.

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Focusing on the growing influence of dating apps, MDACS launched the project to reach out to the gay and transgender communities, particularly those engaged in commercial sex work through these platforms. Dr Vijaykumar Karanjkar, deputy director of MDACS, said, “We are glad that our efforts to tap the vulnerable population are finally showing results. In today’s virtual era, people are using dating apps and social networking sites to find partners. Through our project, we aimed at spreading awareness on safe sex.”

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To facilitate the initiative, MDACS established virtual-friendly Integrated Counselling And Testing Centres (ICTC). “We have dedicated counsellors/caregivers who have been sensitised on how to handle these cases. It includes virtual counselling, risk assessment, and risk reduction,” said Dr Karanjkar, who added that they are in the process of expanding their reach in this community with more counsellors on dating apps.

MDACS conducted an in-depth study to refine their strategy, focusing on the preferences, habits, and online dating app usage of the gay and transgender community. The findings include 48% of gays using Grindr for dating and variations in mobile ownership and internet access between gays and transgenders.

An MDACS official explained, “The study was instrumental in helping us understand the dynamics of these communities, including their preferences for dating apps and engagement in social activities.” The virtual ICTC centre was then formed based on insights gained from individuals on these platforms.

The success of this innovative approach is attributed to collaboration with non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Trained counsellors from these NGOs engaged with the LGBTQ community through social media and dating apps, fostering trust and encouraging individuals to undergo crucial HIV testing and screenings.

“We are on seven dating apps. We plan to get on more social networking sites. It started off as a pilot project, and we can see that we are able to reach the community. For us, even five people found positive and managing to get 31 people to test for HIV and sensitise them is a success,” emphasised another senior official from MDACS.


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