India’s transgender and gender diverse community has long lacked access to affirming, culturally competent care. This past year, two transgender-focused clinics in the city of Hyderabad – created through a partnership between The Fenway Institute and Johns Hopkins University – opened their doors with a mission to change that for good.
The ACCELERATE program launched the Mitr Clinic in Hyderabad, India in January 2021 to serve the transgender community in Telangana state. The ACCELERATE program, an initiative funded by USAID and led by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and The Fenway Institute, aims to ensure comprehensive health services for transgender communities in India in a safe environment, free from stigma. A second location in the city opened in July 2021; Indian celebrity drag artist Sushant Divgikar attended the opening and posted a virtual tour of the clinic and its services.
The Mitr Clinic, which builds off extensive community input and feedback, is the first 0f its kind in India to make services available that are specific and sensitive to the needs of transgender communities in India. “Mitr” is a Hindi word that means friend, peer, or ally. Services at the Mitr Clinic include general health care, HIV counseling and screening, HIV/STI treatment, support for medication adherence, mental health support, gender affirmation services, and linkages to legal and social protection planning.
“This project is building on more than 20 years of Fenway Institute collaborations with Mitr Clinic’s parent organization in India, YRGCARE,”explained Dr. Kenneth Mayer, Medical Research Director at Fenway Health and Co-Director of The Fenway Institute.
The clinic’s ultimate aim is to provide services that go beyond the HIV care continuum in a space that is community friendly and accessible, according to Rose Pollard, MSPH, Program Officer for ACCELERATE. Learnings from the clinic will inform additional sites which focus on transgender healthcare services, with hopes that the model created at Mitr Clinic can be scaled up throughout India.
“We look forward to growing these centers to ensure every person regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation has access to quality services for HIV and other support services,” Pollard said.