Samvad HIV Helpline

AASHA Akola -1

Why work in field of HIV/ AIDS? People in our society do not openly discuss about taboo topics like HIV, STD and sexuality. This lack of accurate information and the stigma attached to these issues are the reasons of the spreading of this epidemic like a raging fire from 1 person in 1986 to 2.5 million in 2010. It affects people in their most productive years- not only the individual but the whole family. Treatment is costly. But prevention is 100% possible. What one needs is context specific information and actionable advice.
Why Samvad HIV Helpline? A telephonic helpline provides a secure place to inquire, discuss and share about issues related to HIV / AIDS – questions they cannot discuss in their homes or with friends and relatives. Remaining anonymous, the caller can get context specific, one-on-one, actionable advice from a trained counselor. Telephones now have become most easy and affordable medium of communication. Also, a helpline acts as reference point for other services available.
For many that one phone call changed their life forever. Armed with the principles of highest ethical standards with respect to privacy and confidentiality, a compassionate, non judgmental attitude and accuracy of information, today Samvad has established itself as the largest HIV helpline in India.
Most of our callers call in anxiety, panic or distress.
By providing correct information we help the caller make a more realistic assessment of his or her situation. In many cases this alone is enough for the caller to get back to a normal life. We provide practical advice that the caller can use right away such as – Where do I get tested? Where can I get treatment? Which NGOs can help me? ….
In yet other cases, our counselors provide a space to be heard without being judged, a place to vent, cry, complain, seek solace.
Many a time, callers find themselves in a state of hopelessness. They have been stigmatized or feel scared that their status will be known to others. This affects their outlook to life. Using techniques of counseling, our counselors are able to help them find solutions within themselves. Our belief is that people are capable, they just need timely help and a bit of self belief.

What have we achieved in 8 years?

Started on 2nd October 2005, till date, Samvad HIV Helpline has catered to more than 2,00,000 callers with information and counseling on HIV. After Maharashtra, now we are functioning full-fledged in Bihar.

● Monday to Saturday – 9.30 am to 8.30 pm
Sunday – 9:30 am to 5:30 pm
● We have the infrastructure to support 10 phone lines at a time with 12 full-time, 2 part-time counselors
● Service is offered in Marathi, Hindi, English, Bhojpuri
● Cost per call:Maharashtra –Rs 72.19, Bihar – Rs 137.26
● We also provide call back service for desperate callers and SMS reminder service for enhancing ART adherence. This gives round the clock service to the callers.

Key features of Samvad Helpline: 

● Counselor engages the caller in a detailed discussion for risk assessment considering the type of exposure history.
● Pre-test counseling is handled with empathy and delicacy.
●Window period causes tremendous pressure and anxiety in the daily life routine of some callers. Proper plan is devised with the consent of the caller and continued support is given to the person to tide over the window period.
If asked, detailed information and reference is given for Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)

  • Samvad counselors are expert in handling post-test counseling too. Taking care of the caller’s immediate reaction, making short term and long term plans etc. makes such calls last for 60-80 minutes in general.
    Counselors try to take the caller’s feedback in designing the action plan. This way the responsibility is shared by the caller by completing the short goal decided till the next call.
    ● Disclosure is a very sensitive issue and it causes tremendous mental turmoil. If the test report is positive, the caller is explained about positives and negatives of disclosing or not disclosing it to the spouse or family. Though the final decision lies with the caller, he is strongly motivated for disclosure and spousal testing.
    ●Another difficult caller group is that of Phobic callers. These are the ones with repeated negative testing after one exposure (or sometimes no real exposure). It is a tough job to make them trust their report. We have a few cases where the callers have reported to have done testing more than 25 times. Efforts are made to motivate such callers to seek the help of psychiatrists/psychologists.

Achievements: Samvad HIV AIDS Helpline till date has catered  to more than 200,000 callers with information and counselling on HIV,