Samraksha was one of the first NGOs in Karnataka to start working on the issue of HIV, when it began working in 1993, when it emerged as a sector of a larger developmental organization 'Samuha'. Today, as an independently registered charitable trust, it runs a range of interventions, to stop the spread of HIV, and extend care and support to the people who are affected by it.Prevention of HIV is a complex issue that requires change at multiple levels. It affects extremely private and fundamental choices in life, such as sexual practices, and hence requires change in behavior at the individual level.
Since people do not always have controlover the varied circumstances that can expose them to the infection, it is important to engage with different groups of people in order to constitute community norms towards safe practices. At the same time, people also affected and living with HIV, need care and support so that they lead a life of dignity. This includes medical and psychosocial support, it also includes a conducive and supportive external environment. This encourages early diagnosis, treatment and management of the HIV condition, which can itself limit the spread of the infection.
Samraksha believes that communities have the capacity to manage the issue of HIV, as they have managed other problems in the past. What is needed is not an external expert, but someone who will work and engage with them, in order to propel the momentum of processes of change. Within this basic idea, the primary work itself is designed differently to suit the needs of different groups of people, who have different issues relating to exposure to or management of HIV. Samraksha has been working with different kinds of communities; it currently works with 10,000 women in sex work and2000 sexual minorities, with 5000 people living with HIV and their families, and with 1200 village/town communities.
Samraksha has been a pioneer in many of the HIV related interventions, which are today accepted practice. This includes the first pre and post test counseling service in 1994, the first care centre for people living with HIV in Karnataka in 1997, the first rural continuum of care in 2001, and the first intervention with rural sex workers, in 2004. It has been a part of various consultation and advisory groups for national policies and programme design.
Samraksha has also nurtured many community based groups, which are today functioning as independent organizations. This includes Karnataka Network of Positive People, District Networks of Positive People in Raichur and Koppal, Swati Mahila Sangha, a CBO of women in sex work in Bangalore. Recently five independent CBOs of women in sex work have registered in Raichur, Koppal, Gadag, Haveri and Uttar Kannada Districts in Karnataka and are taking charge of the HIV prevention programme. Four groups of sexual minorities in these districts are also moving towards the registration of their own collective.