Asha Kirana, ray of hope for LGBT community
Mysuru: This is one community that faces stigma worse than those faced by Covid-19 patients, but largely ignored. They are subjected to social ignominy in a society in which they are a part, but often ostracised and ridiculed for their ‘queer’ ways. With the outbreak of the pandemic, this community is vulnerable but often left to fend for themselves. Asha Kirana, however, has come as a glimmer of hope for the LGBT ( (Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders) in these dark times of Covid-19.
“Supreme Court has de-criminalised homosexuality, but acceptance of LGBT community by the society especially those living with HIV/AIDS is still a far cry. Now, with Asha Kirana we found some dignity and solace. We feel safe here, especially in the Covid-19 pandemic situation,” Akram (name changed), a transgender living with HIV in Mysuru said. Asha Kirana is the state’s first of its kind designated special health care facility in Mysuru, exclusively for the treatment of LGBT community, including those living with HIV/AIDS at no cost.
Asha Kirana is the only standalone health care facility for HIV/AIDS in the state. It runs the government’s Anti-Retro Viral therapy centre on public-private partnership. It provides free of cost treatment to people with HIV/AIDS. They have recently started a separate 45-bedded Covid care unit at their hospital.
This special health care facility for LGBT community is the brain-child of Dr S N Mothi, chairman of Asha Kirana charitable trust. Speaking to The Hans India, Dr Mothi said, “In India there are over 3.5million LGBT population. The Supreme Court had recently de-criminalised consensual sex between two consenting adults of the same sex by declaring Section 377 of IPC as illegal. It is a fact that the people of this community and especially those living with HIV/AIDS still face several challenges, including stigma and discrimination at general healthcare facilities. The practices in several general healthcare facilities are still ambiguous when treating them.
During a meeting with Ashodaya Samithi, an association of LGBT community in Mysuru, the community had expressed the need for a healthcare facility specially focused on them. In order to reach out to their needs, Dr Mothi came up with this special healthcare facility to give quality care to LGBT community, especially those living with HIV/AIDS. They walk into this special facility exclusively meant for them every Saturday, without any apprehension and they get evaluated and treated. “We even plan to get our doctors trained in the same way as in the US which offers courses to treat LGBT community living with HIV/AIDS. This special facility is to ensure dignified and respectful living for LGBTs living with HIV/AIDS,” he said. “We are currently treating over 3,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, including LGBTs at our hospital. So far nine people living with HIV/AIDS, and one transgender living with HIV/AIDS are tested positive for Covid-19 in Mysuru. Those HIV infected who are on Anti Retro Viral Therapy are found to be less prone for Covid 19. But those who are living with HIV/AIDS who are still not on Anti Retro Viral Therapy are more prone for Covid-19 as their immunity is suppressed, so they have to take more precautions,” he said. Lauding this special health care facility meant for LGBT, Akram (a transgender living with HIV) who is part of Ashodaya Samithi in Mysuru said, “In Mysuru alone, while there are over 1,200 male sex workers and transgenders, 24 percent of them are HIV/AIDS positive. It is difficult for us to wait among general public in queue as we face lot of stigma and discrimination. If we have some health issues, we head to hospitals in Tamil Nadu.”
Courtesy : The Hans India