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Community mobilisation: myths and challenges
  1. Smarajit Jana
  1. Correspondence to Dr Smarajit Jana, Sonagachi Research & Training Institute—Principal 44, Balaram Dey Street, Kolkata, West Bengal 700006, India; smarajitjana{at}

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As described in the papers in this issue, the Avahan India AIDS Initiative embraced the community mobilisation as a core strategy in its scaled HIV prevention programme, reflecting many of the guiding principles of the Sonagachi project in West Bengal.1 ,2 The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), which is the nodal agency responsible for the development of HIV policies and programmes in India, also introduced the concept of community organising and ownership-building as a critical feature of its work.3 ,4 In both cases, the stated objective was to improve the quality and coverage of the HIV intervention programme with special reference to most-at-risk populations, namely the female sex workers, transgender persons, men who have sex with men and people who use drugs. Community mobilisation was envisaged as a process of bringing these marginalised populations to the centre stage of intervention activities. Both NACO and Avahan hoped to build community collectives that would take an active role in HIV programming, not merely as service recipients, but as responsible agencies which would eventually own, run and sustain the programme, as it was done in Sonagachi.

The inclusion of community mobilisation approaches in an HIV intervention programme is a logical and pragmatic way to foster the engagement of community members with the programme and thereby improve their access to relevant HIV-related services. However, it …

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