India’s commercial hub, Mumbai, on Thursday (6 March) welcomed the country’s first LGBTI health center.
One of India’s oldest LGBTI health organizations, the Humsafar Trust, launched the pilot Integrated HIV clinic with help from an international NGO and state HIV group.
Bollywood star Richa Chadha cut the red ribbon on Wednesday.
The center will offer HIV prevention and treatment services to at-risk communities in Mumbai, including men who have sex with men.
It will also offer counseling and mental health advice.
‘It’s great that there can be a space where people can come forward without the fear of being judged, and get the mental and physical support they need’Chadha said, according to local media.
‘The Humsafar Trust has been working in this direction for many years, and has a sense of the problems that need to be addressed’.
There were 2.1 million people living with HIV in India in 2017 and 88,000 new infections, according to Avert.
About 2.7% of men who have sex with men were HIV positive.
— Humsafar Trust (@HumsafarTrust) March 7, 2019
Last year, India’s Supreme Court dismantled a colonial-era anti-gay law and decriminalized gay sex.
The Supreme Court ruled the colonial-era law, which punished gay sex with up to 10 years in prison, was unconstitutional.
HIV and AIDS advocates also welcomed it as an important step in combatting India’s epidemic.
But, LGBTI Indians still face widespread stigma and discrimination. They are, therefore, often shy about visiting mainstream health services.
Chadha said since Section 377 has been repealed, NGOs and charities could open more such health centers.
They would help ‘bring more inclusivity and access’ Chadha said.