New Delhi: Today, on World AIDS Day, Project ACCELERATE, a programme funded by USAID/PEPFAR and implemented by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in partnership with YRGCARE, The Fenway Institute and Blue Lotus Advisory under the technical guidance of National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), launched Safezindagi.in, an online platform that offers information and services for HIV testing, prevention, treatment, and retention in care through the public sector and private organisations of India in collaboration with various community-based organisations.
Safezindagi.in aims to be a comprehensive demand generation and service delivery online platform for risk assessment, innovative prevention, and testing services (like PrEP and HIV self-testing) with linkage to treatment including tele-consultation with medical and counselling professionals to ensure adherence and retention on care.Safe Zindagi has a team of trained counsellors ready to support users of testing services virtually, answer their questions, offer counselling, and arrange linkage to doctors and health centres. Safe Zindagi is currently active in 49 cities across 20 States of India.
Speaking at the rollout of Safezindagi.in, Dr Sunil Suhas Solomon, Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said, “We are at a crucial juncture in the AIDS epidemic in India, where the rate of new infections has plateaued since the epidemic’s peak in 2000. We must continue to increase testing as this curbs the spread of AIDS. Safezindagi.in is our effort to increase access to information and a range of services for AIDS prevention and control.”
Dr Jalpa Thakker, Director – Programs, Accelerate, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said, “India has done a fabulous job in reaching the right people with HIV services over the last many decades and as a result, 76 per cent of the PLHIV are aware of their status due to rigorous testing strategies (Sankalak 2020). We have many traditional ways of testing for HIV. One can go to a facility called Integrated Counselling and Testing Center to get tested, counselled, and linked for further follow-ups. However, due to systemic barriers, uptake of traditional testing gets impacted by the distance that one must travel to the facility, the money that one must spend and lose because of time devoted to testing and most importantly, the fear of losing confidentiality and the stigma of going to designated HIV testing facilities. HIV self-testing is accurate, simple, and quick. It preserves privacy, confidentiality and can be done from any convenient location, at any time, with or without assistance. The Safezindagi.in platform will serve as a repository of knowledge and linkage for STDs and promote HIV self-testing for early diagnosis and treatment initiation. It will promote combination prevention methods like pre-exposure prophylaxis and enable healthy living practices among those living with HIV.”
Users can order HIV self-testing kits on Safezindagi.in and get these couriered to a convenient location or even pick up the kits from nearby listed pick up points. They can choose to test themselves on their own or under expert supervision. Safe Zindagi is a virtual one-stop shop that aims to meet people “where they are” to drive access to services and facilities they need, all while giving them the freedom of choice and comfort.