Ashar Alo Society (AAS) is the pioneer and largest peer support group of PLHIV as well as national level NGO by and for people with HIV, works toward establishing rights, care, support, empowerment, and greater & meaningful involvement of people infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS in Bangladesh since 1998. AAS is renowned as one of the key stakeholder for its roles in the field of HIV response in South Asian Region. AAS has contributed in the area of care & support, community empowerment & engagement, policy advocacy in Bangladesh.
AAS has about 21 years of extensive experiences and national-international recognition for outstanding performance in the arena of social mobilization and policy advocacy to ensure stigma and discrimination that are caused by HIV and AIDS in Bangladesh. As a PLHIV organization AAS has established strong access to the different ministries and other civil society stakeholders with sound working relationship. AAS has proven track record of high level competency to sensitize and mobilize policy makers and potential authorities through evidence based advocacy to be more proactive on the HIV AIDS issues in creating enabling environment for people infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS in Bangladesh.
- Bringing PLHIV under program coverage through VCT and networking
- Bringing children affected by AIDS (CABA) under program coverage
- Creating awareness to remove barriers, stigma and discrimination about HIV and AIDS through advocacy initiatives and community programs.
- Counseling and psychosocial support to the infected & affected people as well as Children affected by AIDS (CABA)
- Provide treatment for OIs management and ART support for PLHIV.
- Develop & distribute IEC & BCC materials
- Provide Training to the PLHIV and affected people about care giving, leadership, advocacy, peer education, positive living, health & nutrition.
- Provide training to the Health Care providers on ART/OIs management and other relevant issues.
- Empowering PLHIV economically by providing vocational training and income generating activities with grant money.
- Ensure and support the greater involvement of PLHIV in policy & implementation level.
- Establish and strengthen linkage with government’s agencies, UN Agencies and national organizations to enable better delivery of services for PLHIV and CABA.
- Conduct advocacy meetings with relevant stakeholders e.g. GO-NGO Policy makers, legal support providers, media, development partners, HCP.
- TB-HIV co-infection management
- Conduct research and study on various issues like “Treatment Access of PLHIV”, “CABA Mapping”, “Size Estimation of PLHIV”, “Baseline Survey of CABA”.
Working experience on SRHR: To contribute to reduced unintended pregnancies, HIV transmission and HIV- related maternal mortality amongst young people affected by HIV (aged 10-24), AAS implemented project named “Link Up: Better Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights (SRHR) for Young People Affected by HIV” funded by Netherlands Govt.
Working experience on Nutritional Program: To ensure nutrition for ART receivers AAS implemented a project named “Nutrition initiative for PLHIV” funded by WFP for two years. MAB and CAAP implemented this project with us partner of AAS. Under these project AAS provided different training on nutrition and provided nutrition (nutritional biscuits) to PLHIV.
Livelihood program implementation : Providing Support for wellbeing of HIV infected and affected people especially women through viable livelihood option, AAS has experience to implement the project “Improving livelihood options of people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS” funded by CAFOD . The aim of this project was:
- To create enabling environment for alternative livelihood support of PLHIV especially women through advocacy and networking;
- To create occupation or income generating opportunity for women infected and affected by HIV through capacity building and other technical as well as financial support;
- To provide treatment, counseling, education and psycho-social support for the well being of PLHIV as well as preventing HIV;
Strength in Advocacy for reducing HIV & AIDS related stigma & discrimination to create enabling environment:
- Advocacy in International Arena:
AAS is currently working as one of the leading technical organization of PLHIV in Southeast Asia to move forward the issues related to HIV AIDS and reproductive health related stigma and discrimination. AAS has extensive experience to work and support the international partner groups especially positive networks, CBO’s and NGOs for doing evidence based advocacy and policy negotiation. AAS has experience to work closely with the United Nations co-sponsors through UNAIDS to sensitize international influential achieving universal access and human rights.
- Success in ICC Cricket World Cup Campaign 2011
AAS took the lead on behalf of Bangladesh counterpart as a strategic partner of UNAIDS & UNICEF to sensitize all the international celebrities, players, organizers and investors to reduce social stigma and discriminations on HIV AIDS which has been observed as one of the most successful advocacy intervention at international level. THINKWISE has recognized as one of the most vibrating advocacy campaign on AIDS in international arena.
National HIV AIDS Advocacy initiatives and success:
Working experience with the Ministries and parliamentarians:
- AAS has facilitated sensitization workshop session organized by the Bangladesh National Parliamentarian support group.
- AAS has successfully organized and facilitated the National day of Violence against Women with a greater participation of the Ministry of women and children affair.
- Through advocacy with corporate AAS has achieved a significant benefit. i.e. getting ARV drug from beximco Pharmauticals at 50% reduced price since 2005.
- Along with NASP, AAS has successfully achieved the goal of establishing Continuum of Care through equipped Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) in Dhaka and for providing ARV to the large number of PLHIV at free cost as a result of effective advocacy with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoH&FW).
National level programs for PPTCT, sexual and reproductive rights
With increasing access to antiretroviral (ART) Treatment and subsequently increased longevity, people living with HIV (PLHIV) have regained the opportunity to live longer, fulfilling lives and to plan for future, including decisions about sex, sexuality and the possibility of expanding families. Among PLHIVs from marginalized groups, indicators show even higher rates of unmet contraceptive need, untreated Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and lack of knowledge and skills on safer sex and broader positive prevention. Considering this background AAS started PPTCT programs in collaboration with UNICEF and Government hospital, the program component includes ANC and PNC, hospital care, surgical support, ARV, nutrition etc.
Experience with other key stakeholders
- Within last one decade AAS has successfully organized different advocacy & sensitization meeting with Health Minister, Secretary, Parliament Members, DG-Health, US ambassador, Policy Makers & high officials from GO-NGO with the aim of advocacy in support of PLHIV.
- Playing the leading role to define the PLHIV care and support component for the National Strategic plan, National HIV/AIDS Behavior Change and Communication Strategy, National Implementation Plan, SOP on care & support for PLHIV and other relevant documents development process.
- Receiver of Anti TB Drug from govt.(NASP & NTCP) for the PLHIV
International Affiliations with in Global HIV/AIDS advocacy programming:
- Steering committee Member of International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC).
- Member of WAPN+.( Women Asia pacific Positive Network)
National Affiliations with in Global HIV/AIDS advocacy programming:
- Member of Country Coordination Mechanism (CCM)
- Member of National Network of PLHIV in Bangladesh (NNB+)
HIV AIDS Advocacy at Local Level
AAS continues advocacy with various stakeholders (national & local level) for reducing stigma and discrimination faced by PLHIV and ensure continuum of care through following initiatives:
Courtyard meeting- AAS continues the courtyard meetings in the courtyard of PLHIV or of neighbor for improving the acceptance of the PLHIV in the family and immediate community, In last 8 years (2005-2013) It conducted approximate 1000 Uthan Boithak with 20000 people in different areas.
Community sensitization meeting – AAS organizes community sensitization meeting for addressing fear and misconception regards HIV and AIDS, giving right information and talking about positive peoples’ life In last 8 years (2005-2013) It conducted 620 Courtyard meeting with 18000 community people and 200 Community Sensitization Meeting with 5000 community leaders in different areas of country.
Development/Translate of Training Manual, Documentation and Booklet:
- AAS Translated Manual on Organizational Development of a PLHIV groups, Positive development Manual (provided by GNP+)
- Developed Guideline for Local level Advocacy, and Module for Leadership Development training
- Worked in a team of developing ART Guideline, Self care series book for the PLHIV, Counseling training module, Peer education training module, Care Giver Training Module, national level SOP for PLHIV
- Developed Health book, referral card, Brochure, Booklet on HIV/AIDS and care & support issue for the PLHIV
- Developed ART Booklet for the ART receiver and Video Documentation on PLHIV
Education, counseling and prevention skills for the people living with HIV and AIDS and their affected family members:
Currently AAS has Ten counselors where Six are Peer Counselor and Four are professional, all of whom are trained. Through this trained, experienced and dedicated team of counselors, AAS is providing preventive counseling as a part of VCT, partner disclosure and family counseling, including STI, nutrition, treatment, ART adherence, family planning, positive living, preventive counseling for parent to child transmission, infant feeding counseling etc.
Empowerment of PLHIV & their family members through capacity building initiatives:
AAS organizes series of training for PLHIV and their family members for their capacity building on protecting themselves from re-infection, learn about living positively, prevent OIs, and become empowered to speak out publicly against stigma and discrimination & taking part in prevention, improving the quality of life of PLHIV. Those are as follows: Training on positive living, Peer Education, Leadership development, Gender & Human Rights, Care giving.
To Improve and prolong the life of PLHIV through treatment & care:
From its inception AAS continues providing out-patient health services to the PLHIV through the expert physicians trained on HIV clinical management from Country and abroad. Currently AAS has four fulltime clinicians led by an experienced clinician trained on clinical management of HIV/AIDS in Thailand. And other four expert clinical consultants involve as part time basis. Through these clinicians, AAS is providing clinical consultation for the management of HIV/AIDS related OIs, ART, CD4 count, nutritional counseling, and clinical counseling for the adherence for ART, anti TB drug, STI management, PPTCT.
Respectively AAS provides the following services to the PLHIV:
- Monthly Health Check up and necessary lab investigation
- Out-patient health care for OIs management ( including medicine and prophylaxis)
- Support for In-patient care, necessary pathological testing, nutritional support and surgical intervention
- Provide ARV support, CD4 count and Anti TB drug with regular follow up and monitoring, facilitate PPTCT services
Distribute ART and anti TB drug to the individuals and respective organizations as well . As a Lead organization (GFATM project, Round-6 and RCC, Package-910) AAS is distributing ART (Anti Retroviral Therapy) to Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet center and to other PLHIV organization (CAAP and MAB) till September 2017. From October 2017 Government Hospitals are providing this support.
Quality improvement for inpatient and out-patient health care services:
To standardized Outpatient health care services across the country AAS organized daylong training workshop involving the out-patient health care provider from 3 cities. AAS provided training to the 80 Doctors & nurses of IDH on 5 days long HIV clinical management training in 3 batches in 2007, 3 doctors training in 2011, 4 training in 2012. Along with provided a 2 day long refreshers for the same group in 3 batches in 2010. In addition provided all necessary logistics, medical equipment, and supply for the HIV word in IDH and renovate the word as well.
HIV testing services (HTS) is an important part of HIV prevention and treatment services. AAS is providing this service through four centers in Dhaka, Sylhet, Chittagong and Jessore by its own funded. Last Year AAS provided this support to 618 people where 68 persons were indentified HIV positive and all positive cases were referred to Govt. ART center to ensure treatment.
Referral Linkage & Networking: AAS providing services to the major portion of the Govt. reported cases and this is possible due to effective referral linkage. AAS has established good referral linkage & networking with GO-NGOs and other necessary institutes to bring PLHIV under program coverage, utilize VCT service, ensure support to the PLHIV, and contribute to HIV prevention effort.
Information and Education for Most at risk population (MARP):
AAS organize information sharing session in selected NGOs, Travel/Recruiting agency, Detoxification center, brothel among the CSW, Trans Gender, Migrant worker, MSM, IDUs, and students as contribution to the HIV and AIDS prevention program. In most of the session one HIV positive member of AAS discloses his/her status and share experiences being positive.
Mobilizing and capacity Building of PLHIV group & HCP:
- For appropriate implementation of the intervention through enhancing knowledge and skills of MAB, AAS organized training on Project management, Proposal writing & Budget Development, Review the Policy & Constitution, Orientation on Constitution to the EC committee and Management Staff and leadership & Team building workshop for this self help group of PLHIV.
- Every year AAS conduct orientation for the doctors & Nurses in Dhaka, Sylhet, Ctg. & Khulna on discrimination free Treatment care & support services for the PLHIV. AAS arrange and coordinates Universal precaution training for the HCP.
Provide alternative livelihood support and Vocational training to the infected & affected:
As most of the PLHIV members are unemployed, low socio economic status, unskilled deported migrant worker and helpless poor and a number of helpless widows thus, AAS tries to provide livelihood support and coordinate vocational training for them from its inception. Last 5 years AAS provided support to the 59 infected & affected people for the purpose of Sewing , Cattle raring, tea stall, Poultry, fisheries, Tailoring, handicraft, Block & Boutique, Screen print, making Jute product, small entrepreneurship development etc. with an amount of grant money to start/run the business.
HIV helpline Services: AAS has been providing basic information on HIV & AIDS, HIV testing facility, high risk behavior, care & treatment etc. and counseling service through it’s hotline services from its Dhaka office since 2008. Last 20 year’s total 1250 people from MARP and others received services through AAS helpline service center.