Glory Alexander has pioneered initiatives to bring awareness around HIV/AIDS in India, and help end HIV related discrimination and maltreatment in medical institutions. Deep prejudice exists against people with HIV/AIDS, and Glory’s organization, ASHA Foundation, pushes for tolerance in all spheres of Indian life.
While providing prenatal and natal support to HIV positive women, Glory recognized the need for an overall strong medical support system for these women. Many have lost their husbands, been stigmatized by family, and face discrimination and maltreatment at the very hospitals that are supposed to treat them.
A key pillar to ASHA’s support system, is the standardized procedure of Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV. This program, pioneered by Glory, provides pregnant women with counselling and HIV testing as part of standard screening when they visit the hospital for prenatal care. If the woman is positive, she receives counselling and three-part medication to prevent passing of the virus to her child ensuring the child is born HIV negative. Glory was part of an expert team appointed by the Indian government, that helped make this three-part medication free of charge for all HIV positive women.
To ensure practices like this become embedded in the hospital system and culture, ASHA also provides sensitivity training to hospital staff and trains antenatal clinic nurses to act as counsellors for HIV+ mothers. The organization continues to provide support to HIV positive mothers through counselling, medical support, and self help groups to help cope with everyday challenges of living with HIV. Today, ASHA partners with 18 mission hospitals across India for the PMTCT programme, and has reached 136,390 women since its inception in 2003. To help those children born with HIV, ASHA partnered with Paul Newman’s SeriousFun Children’s Network and YRG Care - Chennai, to help children cope with life with HIV.
In addition, ASHA runs the Adolescent Health Education (AHE) Project to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS amongst 13-15 year olds. The AHE curriculum initially included only HIV information, but later expanded to include other adolescent health concerns, widening its acceptance in schools. It is now taught in 332 schools across India, and has reached nearly 70,000 students. The organization also engages in research, strengthening and increasing the efficacy of its programs.
Through these support system initiatives, Glory is making fundamental changes in the way hospitals and schools in India look at and treat HIV/AIDS patients and their families. As India makes strides in HIV/AIDS prevention, Glory continues to work towards “0 HIV positive newborns,” and plans to expand her work to help other vulnerable communities in India.
Note: This was updated in June, 2014. Read on for the ELECTION profile