Fellow Since 2006
Positive Women Network PWN+
This profile was prepared when Kousalya Periasamy was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Kousalya is working to end the stigma and discrimination in India against HIV-positive women in all social spheres. Most of the HIV and Aids programs in the country have focused on prevention rather than treatment and rehabilitation. These programs have primarily targeted high risk segments of society, such as commercial sex workers and truck drivers. Kousalya is using a rights-based approach to highlight the fact that millions of other women, young people, and children are at risk as well.She is reaching out to women living with HIV and Aids by creating a nationwide grassroots network that enables HIV-positive women to advance their cause in a unified way. It is a unique example in India of the transformation of grassroots leadership into a national resource that contributes to the medical, social and legislative responses to HIV at the community, state, and national levels.The Positive Women Network works on several fronts. It lobbies to improve how information on HIV and Aids is delivered to women. It also works to improve access to services by providing counseling, treatment, general health services, and drug rehabilitation. The Network is helping to push for affirmative action for infected women in the forms of employment, vocational training, and credit. It is working to ensure access to quality education and health care for children affected by HIV-positive parents.In 1998, the Network started up with just four founding members, mostly from Tamil Nadu. In 2002, it organized the first National Consultation on women living with HIV and Aids, transforming it into a national network. In 2006, it had more than 5,000 members, with firmly established units in Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Manipur, West Bengal, Assam and Orissa.