MUKTA: Targeted Interventions for Groups at Risk

Photo by Pathfinder India

“I used to drink a lot, but I’ve stopped since I became part of Mukta. I saw my friends dying because of alcohol and infections. I am alive because of Mukta,” said Surekha Baravkar, one of the project’s peer educators.

Photo by Pathfinder India

In Phase I, Mukta was successful in reducing the sexually transmitted infection rate among target groups by over 30 percent.

Photo by Pathfinder India

Peer educators are at the heart of Mukta. The project builds their skills—to listen attentively to other sex workers, identifying the personal or social factors that leave their clients vulnerable to infection.

Photo by Pathfinder India

A group of peer educators are trained to use microplanning—to collect and use data to adjust their services to meet their clients’ most pressing health needs.

Photo by Pathfinder India

Mukta has fostered 17 community-based organizations for female sex workers and men who have sex with men. These organizations have secured legal registrations in India and have grown to take up social issues beyond HIV.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mukta, which means "freedom" in Sanskrit, was part of the Avahan India AIDS Initiative and targeted more than 25,000 female sex workers and men who have sex with men in the Indian state of Maharashtra to reduce their risks and vulnerabilities towards sexually transmitted infections and HIV.

In its first of three phases, Mukta successfully reduced the sexually transmitted infection rate among target groups by over 30 percent. By 2008, HIV prevalence among female sex workers and men who have sex with men in Maharashtra was at 9.7 percent—a substantial decrease from 2006 estimates (HSS 2008).

In Phase II, the project worked in 790 census-defined intervention sites spread over three districts with a team of 178 peer educators and 103 non-government organization staff, delivering outreach and health services through 75 clinics and 37 community drop-in centers.

“Mukta’s success shows the importance of community leadership interventions that are innovative, data-focused, and scaled. These are programs that are actually owned and run by those most at risk. This is how we prevent HIV.” —Darshana Vyas, Mukta Project Director

As part of a planned transition process, the project successfully handed over all of its interventions to the Government of Maharashtra in April 2012. Pathfinder is one of the only two Avahan partners to transition all of its interventions to the government on schedule.

Post-handover, Pathfinder provided expanded technical assistance to the Government of Maharashtra in 27 of 35 districts to train 702 peer educators, 219 outreach workers, 184 doctors, 93 counselors and nurses, 60 project managers, and 52 government clinic staff between August and December 2012. In 2012, Mukta’s outreach activities supported 23,854 female sex workers and 11,786 men who have sex with men. In the same year, the project distributed more than 2,087,000 free condoms to female sex workers and men who have sex with men.

As a result of Mukta’s success, the National AIDS Control Organization in India requested Pathfinder provide technical assistance in the neighboring state of Madhya Pradesh.

This program covers 48 districts of Madhya Pradesh and culminated in the establishment of five learning sites in the state. The project built strong linkages with the National Mission for Empowerment of Women, Government of India, and the United Nations Entity for Equality and Empowerment of Women.

Mukta has fostered 79 community-based organizations for female sex workers and men who have sex with men, which have secured legal registration in India and taken up social issues beyond HIV. Two of these organizations have been recognized by the government as learning sites, and have received government funding.



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