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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”

 

India and Aids - dodging the issue?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3097923.stm
 
By Jonathan Beale BBC correspondent in Delhi 

In one of Delhi's charity-run Aids care centres, 20 HIV-infected men,
women and children suffer in secrecy and in silence.

(Photo of Aids victim Koushalya - infected by her husband They're the
lucky ones.)

Most HIV victims in India are shunned by a society that would rather
ignore the virus. But India cannot afford to do that anymore.
Over four-and-a-half million people are now living with HIV/Aids.

(PhotoIrfarn Khan, the centre's co-ordinator, says it's about time
his country confronted the stigma.)

"What we do here is, when the client is admitted, we try and tell the
family also that it is as normal as any other infection and the way
we are dealing with it - the same things can be done back at home,"
Dr Khan says. "That's where we are plugging the gap between
information and trying to bring them back to their families."

 



Reluctance to speak

It is aid agencies, rather than the government, that are raising
public awareness.

The United Nations is warning that without a rapid stepping up of the
country's Aids-prevention programme, the epidemic could spread to
tens of millions of Indians.

Doctors could face a huge increase in HIV patients in India But even
politicians who are supposed to be highlighting the problems of Aids
seem reluctant to promote sex education. And that is causing growing
frustration among Aids-awareness campaigners.

Campaigners are also coming under pressure from conservative groups
in India who see talk of condoms and safe sex as a western solution
to a mainly western problem - promiscuity.

'Learn some lessons'

But even married couples in India are not immune to the disease.
Koushalya knew little about Aids until she was infected by her
husband.  Doctor Irfarn Khan - HIV is 'as normal as any other
infection'She says its time to get Aids out into the open, and learn
some lessons from South Africa.

"Nelson Mandela raised the profile of Aids in South Africa by
appearing at conferences and talking on the media about sex
education, awareness and condoms," Koushalya says.  "We in India have
got to do the same."

 



There is hope.

Five hundred politicians from all parties - from the prime minister
to regional representatives - are meeting in Delhi this weekend to
discuss a strategy to combat the virus.

Congress MP Oscar Fernandes knows the stakes are high. "We have 10%
of the world's Aids affected people. Going by the percentage it may
not be a problem as of today but going by the population of 1 billion
and the way it multiplies it may definitely be a major threat for the
health of the nation."

This weekend's conference is a significant step forward. But it will
count for little unless words are soon matched by deeds.