February 24, 2010
Uttar Pradesh, India
Breaking barriers: water and sanitation for people living with HIV/AIDS
– WaterAid is undertaking a key project across the state of Uttar Pradesh to help people living with HIV/AIDS gain sustainable access to safe water and sanitation.
"Only after I lost my husband and two boys to HIV/AIDS did I go to the
hospital and came to know that I am HIV positive. Immediately I was
thrown out by my parents and in-laws and faced considerable
discrimination in the village."
These words, although shocking,
are sadly not uncommon in India where people living with HIV/AIDS are
discriminated against both economically and socially. This
psychological stress not only adds to the physical stress brought on by
their illness but can also worsen people's health as they are prevented
from using the essential water and sanitation facilities they need.
Safe water supplies and sanitation are very important for those living with HIV/AIDS.
WaterAid / Layton Thompson
Water, sanitation and hygiene are all crucial for those living with
HIV/AIDS: frequent bouts of diarrhea increase the need for toilets and
the risk of opportunistic infections heightens the importance of good
hygiene and a safe supply of water.
Yet across India these essential needs are severely lacking with
just 15% of the rural population having access to a toilet and over 120
million people living without safe water.
Recently I got this hygiene kit and came to know about key hygiene behaviors. I am aware of diarrhea management and have found the hygiene kit very useful.
Where people living with HIV/AIDS have to walk a long way to collect water, studies have shown they will simply use less than they should, and without latrines close to home they will resort to open defecation. Many patients who do receive costly anti-retroviral treatments have to take them with water that could give them a life-threatening illness.
Even in communities that have water and sanitation facilities the lack of knowledge about HIV/AIDS and fear of the illness means people are prevented from using them. The stigma forces some, like the lady quoted above, to leave their homes and family: "Disgusted, I left the village and started working here." she says.
Recognizing that much needs to be done to help those living with HIV/AIDS, WaterAid is now undertaking a key project across the state of Uttar Pradesh. In the first six months we have helped develop appropriate water and sanitation facilities, particularly in drop-in centers where patients regularly visit and have also worked with the state's AIDS society and other networks to improve knowledge and information about the links between HIV/AIDS and water and sanitation.
We have also supported volunteers, caregivers and people living with HIV/AIDS with a range of information and advice. The lady quoted above is now one of a group of outreach workers helping others to manage their illness and she explains how the work has benefited her:
"Recently I got this hygiene kit and came to know about key hygiene behaviors. I am aware of diarrhea management and have found the hygiene kit very useful."
By improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities for people living with HIV/AIDS and improving knowledge about this issue, we aim to help break the barriers of discrimination.