Calls from HIV+ LGBTQ members increased during lockdown: Counsellors | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

Calls from HIV+ LGBTQ members increased during lockdown: Counsellors

ByYesha Kotak, Mumbai
May 09, 2020 11:53 PM IST

Four counsellors from Humsafar Trust said since the lockdown was imposed, they have been flooded with calls and queries from members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA+) community. A counsellor said the number of calls has increase to five a day from around 2 calls a day.

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During the early days of lockdown, there was a panic among community members who are HIV-positive about symptoms and quarantine centres. However, over the past few days, the number of calls from HIV-positive people has come down.

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“Earlier, community members would go to Sion hospital to procure HIV medicines, but now it isn’t possible for them to travel all the way there. So, we had to figure out alternate arrangements for them. The concern came from the fact that they have compromised immunity,” said Murugeshan Sivasubramania, counsellor for the group which works for LGBTQIA+ community.

According to latest figures available with National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), around 2.69% homosexual men and 3.14% of transgender/Hijra persons across the country are HIV-positive.

However, over the past couples of days, the counselling centre has been receiving calls from gay men who are married or those who haven’t come out openly to their family.

“It becomes difficult for community members to be home for so long because that way they have to restrict themselves. At times there can also be violence against them by family if they do not accept their identity. Transgenders find it the most difficult because they have to behave and dress up in a way which is against their identity,” said Tinesh Chopade, advocacy manager at Humsafar Trust.

“In the LGBTQ community, mostly the trans/hijra community has been affected. Their livelihood which was depending upon begging and sex work has stopped, so now they have no income. I am personally facing issues when it comes to my work because it is hard for me to talk about my work at home as I work for the community. I can’t be myself. I can’t be Anjali at my home. It has been 50 days I have not done my makeup. It might sound silly to others but it’s a way of expressing myself,” said Anjali Siroya, a community member, who had approached counsellors.

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