No longer the 'flavour of the season'

HIV/Aids management and prevention has fallen off the funding radar, rues Anjali Gopalan

For the vast majority of sufferers, HIV/Aids remains a stigmatising disease. They are ostracised even today and very few people talk about their condition openly. Not surprising really -- this is a country where people are afraid to tell their family that they are suffering from cancer. This fear is compounded 10 times over when it comes to HIV/Aids. This has never been an easy disease to live with and will never be, especially for the LGBTQ community.

In recent years, there is a misconception that the gay community has been provided "legal sanction". However, that is not true. All that has happened is that homosexuality has been decriminalised. This does not mean the gay community have any rights -- for instance, right to adopt, right to marry -- rights that everyone takes for granted. This is why HIV/Aids sufferers from the LGBTQ community face a double whammy -- not only do people not accept you in any shape or form but you also cannot talk about your disease openly or find any sort of succour. 

What is the way forward, one may ask. First up, we need stricter laws to protect the community from discrimination. Even if the implementation of laws is weak (like it is in our country), at least they will have something to fall back upon. Right now, it is a tough, lonely journey. People who 'visibly' belong to the community still have a hard time accessing health care because of the biases of the health care providers. This, despite the fact that HIV treatment is provided free. Sensitisation of doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers and civil servants about the disease as well as the alternate sexuality is critical. Education has to begin in schools and awareness about the LGBTQ community must be part of the curriculum. But there seems to be no political will to do so. Prejudice and lack of political will make for a potent combination!

And sadly enough, HIV/Aids is no longer the 'flavour of the season' Funding for the management of the disease has fallen greatly and hardly any efforts are being made to spread awareness about prevention. It is only on days like the World Aids Day that HIV/Aids' sufferers are remembered and then promptly forgotten.

(The author is a well-known human rights activist and the founder and executive director of The Naz Foundation Trust, an NGO dedicated to the fight against HIV/Aids epidemic in India.) 

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