HIV/AIDS is considered a pandemic, a global epidemic which is present throughout India and is actively spreading. It has had a great impact on society, both as an illness and as a source of discrimination. In South India, the HIV epidemic is largely driven by heterosexual transmission and characterized by low CD4 cell count, poor socioeconomic status and high levels of illiteracy. The vast majority of children acquire HIV peri-natally, but 8% of female children acquire it through sexual contact. Sadly, 90% of those who acquire HIV peri-natally are diagnosed after they are 18 months old. RDT follows a multi-dimensional approach to treat HIV/AIDS which combines medical help with social integration and livelihood.

With the initiation of HID in May 2006, RDT aims to reduce the morbidity and mortality rates among HIV/AIDS patients, prevent the spread of the disease through counseling and awareness, reduce the stigma and discrimination prevalent towards HIV patients and treating TB patients.

“RDT aims to reduce the morbidity and mortality rates among HIV/AIDS patients, prevent the spread of the disease through counseling and awareness”
Vicente Ferrer,
Founder - RDT

The organisation’s value addition besides treatment is helping patients recover their self-esteem through combined economic and psychological support. In 2009, the organisation initiated a collaboration with the government to treat HIV/AIDS on a large scale.

CHWs and HOs play a signicant role in community-level preventive care by spreading awareness about the disease and the importance of early testing. Outreach workers ensure that pregnant women are tested for HIV at Integrated Counseling and Testing Centres which helps diagnose and curb vertical transmission. Counselors, peer groups and outreach workers extend psychological support to
patients and their families.

The disease also has had a large economic impact, especially for rural poor people. RDT provides free of cost treatment to all the HIVinfected patients without subjecting them to any discrimination. Nutritional support is provided to very poor and underprivileged people through bi-monthly packs. For HIV-positive orphans, educational support is extended. This approach has helped people living with HIV/AIDS better deal with the isolation the illness entails.

RDT has been testing and adapting to international protocols for tackling HIV/AIDS. For instance, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) protocols on HIV transmission have been applied to the Indian rural context as there is compelling evidence for their adoption.

RDT also has targeted programmes for particularly excluded and vulnerable groups, such as HIV widows. Their situation is particularly distressful, since the rejection and taboos associated with AIDS add to the already frail social position widows occupy. Over the past few years, the level of HIV prevalence in Ananthapuram district has shown a declining trend, and since 2009, the parent to child transmission rate has also come down.