Phones don’t stop ringing at this helpline

Pune: The phones just don’t stop ringing at the HIV/AIDS helpline, Samvad, which has handled 70,000 calls. The frequently asked questions include, “Am I at the risk of getting infected?”, “Where can I get tested?”, “Are condoms 100% safe?”, “Is there life after HIV?” and “Where can I get free treatment?” And for many, one phone call has changed their life forever.

Source: Express News Service (ExpressIndia)

Pune: The phones just don’t stop ringing at the HIV/AIDS helpline, Samvad, which has handled 70,000 calls. The frequently asked questions include, “Am I at the risk of getting infected?”, “Where can I get tested?”, “Are condoms 100% safe?”, “Is there life after HIV?” and “Where can I get free treatment?” And for many, one phone call has changed their life forever.

Samvad has established itself as the largest HIV helpline in India. Muktaa Charitable Foundation, a public trust, formed by socially conscious citizens, runs the helpline. Volunteers, who charge nothing for their time and effort, do most of the work.

Dr Mukta Oswal, coordinator, says our society does not openly discuss taboo topics such as HIV, STDs and sexuality and the helpline aims to provide accurate, timely, context-specific, one-to-one advice as well as referrals and support services related to HIV, AIDS, STDs to anyone who needs it.

A telephonic helpline provides a secure place to inquire, discuss and share issues related to HIV/AIDS along with questions they cannot pose at homes or to friends and relatives. Remaining anonymous, the caller can get actionable advice from a trained counsellor. Telephones have become the most easy and affordable medium of communication. Also, a helpline acts as a reference point for other services available.

From just one case in 1986, today India has about 2.27 million people with HIV/AIDS aged between 15 and 49, making us the country with the third largest HIV population in the world.

The good news is that the incidence has fallen by more than 25% in India between 2001 and 2009. But the matter of concern now is that the trend has changed. HIV/AIDS epidemic has moved from urban to rural India and from the high-risk groups to the general population, largely affecting the youth.

Keeping this in mind, Samvad is organising a voluntary HIV testing week starting from December 1. During this week, those who perceive themselves to be at the risk of HIV can undergo the test. The test is conducted free at more that 5,000 centres run by the government all over India.

Also, Pune residents can get the test done at consessional rates from doctors linked to Samvad HIV/AIDS helpline (+91) (020)-26381234,



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