Indien: Shyamala Natarajan

Over the years, Shyamala has created space to make discussions on HIV/Aids possible, and brought about a whole slew of government policy changes.

— Shyamala Natarajan

When Shyamala Natarajan (born 1963) started working on HIV/Aids and related issues 16 years ago, stigma surrounded the disease. Over the years, Shyamala has been working with sex workers and sexual minorities, such as men having sex with men and eunuchs. Her work aims at the capacity-building of community-based organizations. She has also lobbied the government and brought about many changes in policy, such as one against the detention of people testing HIV+, and against mandatory testing.

Shyamala Natarajan had to fight opposition from her family to set up the South India Aids Action Program. She is actively involved with organizing sex workers, and believes strongly in community-based (as opposed to forced governmental) rehabilitation. Over the years, she has created space to make discussions on HIV/Aids possible. Lobbying the government on this issue, she has brought about many changes in government policy. To list a few: In 1990, the government of Tamil Nadu framed a policy against detention of people testing HIV+; in 1992, the government of India also adopted this policy. In 1994, the health and family welfare department, government of India, adopted a policy to improve condom quality. In 1996, the National Aids Control Organization (Naco) adopted a policy against mandatory testing for HIV. In 1995, the Government of Tamil Nadu adopted a policy to include HIV+ persons in decision-making. Later, the Naco also accepted this principle. In 1996, the Tamil Nadu Panchayat Unions adopted a policy to support the rights of women in sex work. In 2000, the Naco adopted a policy to provide counseling services for reproductive health in government hospitals. In 2003, the Naco adopted a policy to train and place counselors drawn from communities of people marginalized on the basis of sexuality, gender, and HIV.

South India Aids Action Program (Siaap)