Link Workers Project
The Link Worker Scheme, initiated in district Tonk in Rajasthan, was part of the national response to reducing the risk and vulnerabilities to HIV of rural populations in the country. The project aimed to saturate coverage of high-risk groups through link worker outreach in areas not reached by the targeted intervention; identify and link bridge and vulnerable populations in remote areas with services; and support people living with HIV/AIDS in these areas. IHAT implemented the project from 2009 to 2012 funded by UNICEF.
The project covered 100 villages reaching high-risk groups, long-distance truckers and their associates who stop frequently in the project areas, and vulnerable young women, youth and adults.
The project conducted outreach to most at risk and especially vulnerable adolescents, promoted condom use, established Village Information and Education Centres (VIECs), formed Red Ribbon Clubs, trained link workers, organised street theatres and other programmes with messages on HIV/AIDS preventions and services, and counselled, treated and tested individuals with sexually transmitted infections.
Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), medical and health functionaries, school management and students, youth clubs, self-help groups and the civil society organisations in the district now own the programme. They have shown the commitment to carry on with the activities as part of their departmental activities.
In three years, the project had directly or indirectly reached 3.75 lakh people (35 per cent of the rural population of the district), spreading awareness, and bridging gaps in HIV treatment, care services and community access. Few of the project achievements include:
- reaching and educating 67,000 men and women, and 24,000 most at risk, including vulnerable youth
- catalysing a culture of talking about and opening up about health, sex, sexuality and growing up, that will continue through the youth clubs and Village Information System (VIC) set up in all the gram panchayats
- increasing availability of condoms through 189 condom departments and eight social marketing depots, leading to increased condom use by high risk groups and other vulnerable men and women
- establishing smooth referral and follow-up linkages for various services, including treatment for STIs, testing and treatment for HIV, STI, TB, ICTC/PPTCT services, and HIV care and support services including ART
- creating an enabling environment for people living with HIV/AIDS and their families by reducing stigma and discrimination against them through interactions with existing community structures and groups, such as Village Health Committees, Self Help Groups and Panchayati Raj Institutions