In 2020, our Global Activist Network (GAN) mobilized to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and also to ensure that the needs of people living with or affected by HIV were considered during lockdowns, shifting health priorities and changing political tides.
The story of Loon, a member of the Delhi Network of Positive People and ITPC’s GAN
When I first heard about this new coronavirus in China, I knew it was only a matter of time until it reached India. I thought, what will happen to our community of people living with HIV, who need to take ARVs every day? How will they get their medicine?
I followed the news closely, and before the Indian government announced a lockdown, I closed our office in New Delhi so that our staff could stay home. The next day, the national lockdown was announced. Right away we got to work.
We assembled a team that could help deliver medicine to people who were not allowed to leave their homes. We put flyers up across town with five of our mobile numbers so that people could call us if they were missing medicine. We made up a uniform so that we looked official and the police would not harass us. Then we delivered HIV and hepatitis C medicine across the city on our motorbikes.
We reached about 300 people who were stuck at home. We had to carry our own food and water because nothing was open.
When ITPC Global saw what we were doing, they supported us without even asking. They gave us grants for personal protective equipment for our outreach team on motorbikes and also to buy rice, oil, and sugar for patients who were not eating because ARVs don’t work if you don’t take them with food.
Some patients were very hard to reach. One time, we traveled about five hours one way by car to the interior of Haryana to deliver 15 days’ doses of third-line ART because the medicine was out of stock there.
It was scary going out every day. When I came home to my family, I told them not to come near me. I soaked my clothes in disinfectant and hung them on the balcony to dry in the sun. But we need to make ourselves available in times of crisis if we call ourselves a community organization.
Loon received the 2020 Elizabeth Taylor Award.