Friday, August 8

Fight against AIDS but not against people with it!

By Shilz

HIV is a debilitating and deadly disease of the human immune system, and is one of the world's most serious health problems. The World Health Organization estimates that about 20 million people have died from AIDS since the infection was first described in 1981. Our India is one of the largest and most populated countries in the world, with more than one billion inhabitants. Of this number, it's estimated that around 2.5 million Indians are currently living with HIV, and this is all due to lack of awareness and poor counseling.

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS is "high" in Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is capital, according to the country's National Aids Control Organization. In some researches it has been found that that the risk of committing suicide is higher in people who have HIV.

In a bizarre incident, a couple infected with deadly HIVDefine virus killed their three children and then committed suicide. The Bombay, India-based couple took this extreme step after discovering that their six-year-old daughter had contracted the virus that causes AIDS. The bodies of Babu Ishwar Thevar, 39, his wife, Amothi, 33, two sons Venkatesh, 10, and Mani, 8, and daughter, Mahalaxmi, 6, were found in their home on August 5, 2008. The couple was living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIVdefine) for two years and had been depressed by news that their daughter also had the HIV virus.

The police think that the parents allegedly fed sweets laced with poison to their two boys, and as the daughter survived eating the poisoned sweets, the parents then smothered her with a pillow before committing suicide. The couple had hanged themselves from the ceiling by a nylon rope.

Social stigma and discrimination against HIV-positive people are widespread in our country. People living with HIV fear to loose their status in the society, hence keep their disease a secret. In India, the HIV-infected people have faced violent attacks; been rejected by families as well as by spouses and communities. They also have been refused medical treatment, and even, in some reported cases, denied the last rites after they die. Such harsh reactions to HIV and AIDS make it difficult to educate people about how they can avoid infection.

It is really foolish that even most of the educated people decline to shake hand with HIV infected persons. People do not have proper knowledge about the modes of transmission of HIV.

Revathi, South Indian actress and film director, struggled a lot to convince so called super-hit hero’s in the Bollywood to play the character of a person with AIDS in her movie “Phir Milenge”. Salman Khan was the only one to accept the role when Revathi first came up with the idea. She herself admits it was difficult to find an actor for Salman's role, with several turning it down, mostly because of the social stigma attached to the disease. The movie educates without being preachy, something it may have been in the danger of. It tends to drag in the first half but touches your heartstrings later. However, such movies are rarely received by people. All they want - item numbers, romance, comedy, fights, thrills bla bla bla…!!!

Knowledge about the illness is often confused — even among India’s professional medical community — but it is widely connected with sexual activity, which is a taboo topic in what remains a deeply conservative country. Past series of shocking “skull and crossbones” government adverts served to nurture fear without educating the public — particularly in rural areas where literacy levels are still low. Children’s organizations are known to have refused to take in orphans whose parents died of AIDS. Even in cities, counselling services are rare, leaving those who suffer from guilt and depression chronically undersupported.

Anasuya, a widow in her twenties, told a research team from the charity: “In villages people do not distinguish between HIV and AIDS, the last stage. They treat us as worse than Untouchables.”

Meghna Girish, the co-ordinator of a program for people living with HIV/AIDS in India run by the charity ActionAid, said: “Even after an AIDS patient’s death, people are often scared to touch the body, making last rites a problem.”

In one incident in June two doctors were suspended from a hospital in the northern city of Meerut after a man claimed that he was forced to perform the delivery of his son when medical staff refused to touch his wife upon learning that she was HIV-positive. The man alleged that he had carried out the procedure himself — even cutting and tying the umbilical cord — as doctors issued instructions from a distance.

Even the relatively rich suffer the effects of medical ignorance, according to a recent study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO). It said that nearly 10,000 of the estimated 40,000 HIV-infected people being treated by private doctors in India were prescribed “irrational drug combinations”. Faulty regimens were making patients resistant to first-line antiretroviral drugs faster than usual, the study said.

The WHO also found that Indian drug companies are delivering powerful drugs directly to the homes of HIV patients — cutting out medical professionals — to overcome patients’ fears of discrimination.

The Government this week made a gesture towards integrating HIV/Aids sufferers by promising to issue them with cards that make bearers eligible for a national scheme designed to provide a minimum amount of employment to India’s poorest people.

In addition, about 100,000 people with HIV who are receiving antiretroviral therapy at 174 government centers across the country were promised to be treated as living below the poverty line, a status that qualifies them for food handouts.

Why is this stigma attached with AIDS, is it not possible to root out this stigma from our country?

References:, BBC News, & The MedGuru


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Very heart touching blog...And, I would like to say one thing our country women are often mistakenly perceived to be the main transmitters of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Together with traditional beliefs about sex, blood and the transmission of other diseases, these beliefs provide a basis for the further stigmatisation of women within the context of HIV/AIDS. HIV-positive women are treated very differently from men in many developing countries. Men are likely to be 'excused' for the behaviour that resulted in their infection, whereas women are not.

  3. My mother-in-law tells everybody- "Because of her, my son got this disease. My son is a simple as good as gold - but she brought him this disease." But I contracted this disease because of him, which my mother in law never believes even if I try telling mother-in-law used to keep everything separate for me - my glass, my plate - they never discriminated like this with their son. They used to eat together with him. For me, it's don't do this or don't touch that and even if I use a bucket to bathe, they yell - 'wash it, wash it'. They really harassed me and I left all of them and joined Indian Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS. I am at peace joining here.I wish nobody comes to be in my situation and I wish nobody does this to anybody. But what can I do? My parents and brother also do not want me back.

  4. Thanks for bringing this up shilz...really good one...and true to every word...the stigma is definitely still there despite the awareness campaigns...maybe something is wrong in the way the issue is being addressed to the public...maybe its the way our society has been moulded...this is something that has been part our society...the murmur that spreads when such a thing happens...this also goes for a lot of other "should not have happened" stuff.what people dont realize is the counter affect this has on the mind set of people..the victim as well as the would also negate the effects of all the awareness provided...

    Maybe if people realized that this could happen to any one of us, things would be different.Phir milenge set a milestone in indian film making with the wonderful adaptation of this stigma onscreen.kudos to revathy fo the effort.Maybe more such efforts would help..

    Any effort would be welcome..lets just do our bit..and that is spreadin more awareness...

    Its love the world requires...lets spread love...lets shake hands

  5. @Vindhya & Niyad
    My heartfelt thanks to both of u for sharing ur views. However, no policy or law can alone combat HIV/AIDS related discrimination. The fear and prejudice that lie at the core of the HIV/AIDS discrimination need to be tackled at the community and national levels.I think a more enabling environment needs to be created to increase the visibility of people with HIV/AIDS as a 'normal' part of any society. In the future, the task is to confront the fear-based messages and biased social attitudes, in order to reduce the discrimination and stigma of people who are living with HIV or AIDS.

    If I plan for an awareness campaign, how many of our colleagues join us! If I get a response from atleast a few, probably we all can plan something & think seriously about educating people & creating an awareness as much as we can...

  6. @Anonymous

    Your story is really heart wrenching, but I am happy that finally, you took a wise decision and, I am much more happy knowing that now you are at peace after joining that organization. Thank God,der r few such organizations atleast, which bring a ray of hope in lives of such people. Keep dat strength & passion to live always,as a woman u facing it all alone is just awesome. I'm very happy to know you. In fact, I think all our other writers in this blog & readers will feel happy about ur strength.Never feel lonely. As a person, you are the most beautiful, and AIDS cannot mask that strength, if you are battling against it with a positive attitude.

  7. I feel lack of education among the masses regarding AIDS is the basic reason for the people behaving in cruel manner to AIDS patients. But in some cases educated people
    also behave in the same way as uneducated people behave.I feel their knowledge or awareness is incomplete otherwise they
    wouldn't have behaved in such manner as they behave.


    No doubt AIDS is growing like the
    SURSA MUKH,one of the devil in RAMAYANA.We all must feel on the humanitarian ground atleast and must bring those people suffering
    from AIDS in the main stream.If we could bring a smile on these faces it would be better than anything.

  9. Hi Shilpa,

    I read this article of yours even in Silicon India. Really it was worth reading. With the growing awareness and minimized average of HIV Sero positive cases, why such drastic steps being taken?? The new efforts and research medicine trials for a suitable vaccine all set to hit the field, one should keep the hopes strong and motivate others too. The Govt is taking all suitable steps to allot reservation for Sero-Positive cases for opportunities in the job arena too. So it will be a good sign in the coming future shortly) to not only fight AIDS, and still
    live a healthy life, if infected. Salutations and compliments to you and all those who spread and are spreading the awareness of AIDS and promote health campaign.

  10. @Sampath Kumar,Raj Narain, Aarti Chopra, my heartfelt thanks to all of u for sharing ur views... thanks for ur commenting on this article, here and even Silicon India.


Type here.......:)