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AIDS in India, stigma of diagnosis - A western analysis

nabadip - Thu, 28 Apr 2005 17:11:52 +0530
Another warning about AIDS

Bindu Shajan Perappadan

Stigma and loneliness more dangerous than the ailment "Children and women are treated with contempt, dumped and often even denied health care facilities''

NEW DELHI: He is no stranger to those engaged in the business of keeping at bay the deadly HIV/AIDS virus. But when US-based World Health Organisation consultant David Gisselquist came visiting the Capital this past week, he found the climate here unusually `turbulent and hot'.

And we are not talking only about the soaring mercury here.

He found top health officials in the Capital vehemently denying reports by the Global Fund to Fight Aids that the number of HIV positive patients in this country had crossed that of South Africa. Ignoring the number game, Mr. David issued another warning about something more dangerous and deep set than the ailment itself.

He spoke about the stigma and the loneliness which was increasingly attaching itself to women and children being diagnosed HIV positive in the country.

"I have travelled extensively through the country looking at the various risky practices that are still prevalent here and we managed to zero in on some, including unsafe injection use, unclean tattooing, risky dental practises, sharing razors and use of infected instruments during health camps. I have met several health officials and non-government organisation to appraise them about the dangers of these practices and the urgent need to check them. But while this is something that the government and the people can probably work together and eradicate, there is an extreme worrying trend that I noticed here in this country,'' he confessed.

Research project

Mr. David, who has been involved in research and project work in the field of HIV/AIDS across the globe, said: "We are noticing something unusual in the country.

Cases of children being HIV positive without their mothers being so and in some cases women alone being positive in a marriage.

This is often caused due to the unhealthy blood exposures, but their HIV positive status causes them being denied basic human rights and dignity.''

"Children and women are treated with contempt, dumped and often even denied health care facilities.

This should start a debate on the `weaker section' being given the right to life after being diagnosed HIV positive.

What we are noticing now is only the tip of the iceberg and an indication of worse discrimination to come.

The virus besides attacking the body is now also creating a group of people that the society selects to turn away from.''

Mr. David is now also actively involved in setting up Safe Point Centres as the primary resource for disseminating research-based findings to raise public awareness of risk to contract HIV and other blood-borne pathogens through injections and other exposures in India.

He hopes to be back soon to help health officials in the country tackle the "stigma attached to HIV/AIDS''.