Kousalya Periasamy founded the first nation-wide grassroots network that enables HIV-positive women to advance their cause in a unified manner. As the first woman in this country to declare herself as HIV positive, Kousalya has spent the last 15 years transforming the network into a national resource that contributes to the medical, social and legislative responses to HIV at the community, state, and national levels.
By drawing on the power of advocacy, Kousalya uses a rights-based approach to show that when women are given support and information with user-friendly services, prevention will be automatic. Kousalya is working across different government departments to mainstream HIV positive women’s needs in health and development policy. Through her advocacy work, she has created structures for people from different government departments to interact closely with women living with HIV. Furthermore, PWN+ has worked closely on the monitoring and reporting of the status of women for different international organisations. These include shadow reporting for CEDAW and monitoring maternal health indicators for the United Nations Millenium Development Goals.
Today, there are more than 30,000 women across 13 states in the PWN+ network in the country. Through the network, positive women have been advocating for and winning rights and access to services and treatment. Based on the efforts of Kousalya, PWN+ and other support groups, 80 percent of government hospitals in all districts in the country offer free treatment for people living with HIV. Through her efforts, the Planning Commission has now taken cognizance of the unique requirements of positive women and children, and has included these needs in the Twelfth Plan, which rolls out in the period of 2012-2017.
Kousalya now aims to get one Women’s Resource Centre for HIV women in all areas with high incidence rates of HIV, as mandated by the 12th Plan. With two centres being piloted by the government in Ajmer and Nagpur, these hubs become an important space for HIV affected women to deal with the different problems they face, and to motivate and share their experiences with other women in society. Through the WRC Kousalya can gather data on the status of women in the state, which will in turn feed back to government departments to help them plan future activities. Kousalya started her journey after the personal trauma of realizing that she had been infected with HIV by her husband immediately after having married him. Through her work with PWN+ she is determined to ensure that other young women do not face the same situation that she did.
* This profile was updated in March 2014. Please read on for the election profile.