Worldwide, especially in India there is growing evidence of the links between HIV and the denial of property and inheritance rights to women and children who are HIV positive. In 2007, seven Legal Aid Clinics (LACs) for people living with HIV were set up in high prevalence districts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. A report of this pilot intervention envisages us on the success of this intervention.
A partnership between UNDP and NACO helped to provide funds to start the LAC projects in five districts in Tamil Nadu and two districts in Andhra Pradesh.
After the first LAC was opened in Namakkal, Tamil Nadu in January 2008. Four more followed in the State in April 2008, which were Tirunelveli, Dindigul, Madurai and Cuddalore. In Andhra Pradesh, LACs in Krishna and Guntur Districts have been functioning since June 2008.
In Tamil Nadu the intervention was designed with Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society (TANSACS) taking the lead. Tamil Nadu State Legal Service Authority (TNSLSA) provided the lawyers. The District Administration provided the space in the General Hospital. The positive network helped to bring the affected people to the LAC.
Namakkal was chosen for the first LAC in January 2008 because of its high HIV prevalence, both among general population and high-risk groups, who were sex workers, migrant labor and truck drivers.
In Andhra Pradesh the two high prevalence States, Krishna and Guntur were selected. District Level Networks, Cheytha HIV Infected People Empowerment Society (CHES+) and Society for Welfare of HIV Infected People (SHIP) in Guntur were the primary implementing partners.
Each LAC had a staff of one social worker; two outreach workers and a legal experiment nominated from a panel of lawyers set up by the District Legal Service Authority (DLSA).
There are minor variations across districts but the general process is as follows.
A positive person comes to the LAC to seek legal aid. The social worker helps him write down the complaint.
If it is a non-legal issue (access to benefits and schemes), they are advised on documents etc. required to file the petition. In some cases, people are helped to collect required documentation such as death certificate of husband in case of widow pension.
The lawyer forwards the petition to the Collectorate through the DLSA.
For legal issues (property, stigma and discrimination, custody of children, maintenance etc.), the social worker helps write down the document. The lawyer is consulted.
Outreach workers help verify information by doing a field visit.
The lawyer forwards the petition to the DLSA. Since the DLSA is there at the taluka level, petitions are sent to the taluka under whose jurisdiction the case falls. A lawyer is nominated to follow-up the case. This helps in taking quick action and saves the petitioner travel time and costs for subsequent visits. The DLSA sends notice to the other party to come for a discussion at the court or LAC at a fixed date and time.
Every effort is set up to arrive at an amicable settlement.Divorce and separation were high, especially among discordant couples. This document deals with different case studies that were settled through counseling. Cases of stigma and discrimination among people who are positive with HIV/AIDS had considerably reduced after the intervention of LAC. When one’s property is restored, confidence level of others increases and they are encouraged to fight for their rights. Partnerships with district administration have ensured quick access to schemes and benefits. Positive people said that access to schemes and entitlements had become much easier.
The comparisons of strong network, partnership with judiciary, and partnership with district administration among Tirunelveli, Dindigul, Krishna, and Guntur are made in tabulation columns and remarks are reserved at the last column.
New Concept designed and printed the document. In the design a chalk painting of a tree as a symbol of aid was made. These chalk designs are called "Muggulu" in Telugu, and Kolam in Tamil Nadu. New Concept wanted to use artwork that is symbolic of the regions that were being covered in the document, to give the design more meaning.
Website - UNDP India
Document - UNDP-Supported Legal Aid Services For people living with HIV in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh
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