Thursday, December 6, 2007

AIDS in Arunachal

Is our state safe from AIDS and how much aware are our people to this dreadful virus? Here's Cho's Take on the AIDS in Arunachal. This article was supposed to be featured coinciding with the World AIDS Day on December 1st, but for the delay in obtaining data on AIDS in Arunachal.


AIDS in Arunachal is like a balloon that is being inflated stealthily and is getting ready to burst out.

by Roto Chobin

Not long ago, I watched a movie “Philadelphia” on HBO channel for second time in which actor Tom Hanks portrayed the character of a lawyer who was sacked from his law firm because he had an AIDS. I don’t know how much weight he had to lose to look like an AIDS patient but he indeed looked sick. No doubt, he delivered an excellent performance. That’s why he is one of my favorite actors. And his appearance in this movie reminds me of a startling photograph in ‘TIME ASIA’ magazine which was taken by John Stanmeyer. The picture depicts a HIV-positive man, lying at a care center in the southern Indian city of Pondicherry, staring not at the camera lens but somewhere far away and his mind preoccupied with thoughts - may be, considering everything that he had built but falling into pieces and not knowing if he could ever put them back together. And at the background, his wife (also HIV-positive) was sleeping on the floor with their son. It was a horrifying moment for me to observe the photograph quite closely and I felt as if I am looking at the picture of a corpse.

Despite many AIDS awareness campaigns, the number of infected HIV cases keeps rising year on year in the developing countries. Last year, According to UNAIDS report, India topped the list with over 400,000 AIDS death in 2005 and 5.7 million people were HIV-positive leaving the Africa behind the race who has 5.5 million HIV infected people. And it indicates that the people are not paying any heed to the awareness campaigns which also coerce me to think that they are turning a blind eye to the warning for sake of lust or a couple of hours of ecstasy. Hence, they pass this deadly virus to their spouses. Eventually, the children who in place of getting the care and love of their parent, they shoulder the burden of taking care of their terminally-ill parents. It may sound somewhat reassuring that the virus can hole up in the body for up to 10 years before triggering symptoms or developing into a full-blown life threatening disease provided the patient maintains healthy diet and put on an Anti-retro viral treatment. However, this is just a flicker of hope only as there is no medicine so far that can cure this terrible disease.

In Africa, HIV is mainly transmitted by sex while Asia is receiving a double whammy of sexual transmission and infection among intravenous drug users (IVDUs). The highest HIV prevalence rates are found in Maharashtra in the west; Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in the south; Manipur and Nagaland in the North-east. And when zeroed in on our state; the official figures of HIV+ case may, at a glance, seem miniscule which reported 76 number of HIV infected cases including 14 AIDS cases a year ago. However, we must not take it for granted the list of individual with HIV positive – because only six districts were surveyed last year. Besides, the figure could deceive as the number of people who actually visit clinic for the HIV test alone is literally negligible. And, in many situations, the cause of AIDS death might attribute to an opportunistic infection, such as tuberculosis. As a result, the HIV+ person may remain unknown of having this terrible disease until they accidentally screen their blood and apprised of the result. Therefore, the AIDS in Arunachal is like a balloon that is being inflated stealthily and is getting ready to burst out in a decade or two if people keep ignoring the admonition.

Aside from benighted people, what disturbs me most is the sex trade that is gaining ground in Arunachal. It has become a cause for concern (for few people I believe, as a matter of fact) as, unlike Manipur and Nagaland, the HIV in Arunachal is contracted mostly through sexual activity. Thus, this sex trade which is often executed in clandestine will not help to control the menace of HIV. On the contrary, the virus will keep proliferating for years until it devours everyone like some horrible leviathan. Secondly, I have a good reason to believe that this illegality is something all parents should be afraid of. For instance, two years ago, I happened to see almost half a dozen of teenage girls were being holed in a police car. I wondered what wrong they could have done - prompting the cops to arrest them. I soon found out the reason behind their arrest when an acquaintance told me if I heard anything about the female sex workers who were arrested and sent back to their hometown. This incident came as a jolt. I’ve never expected our state with all its glory and naiveté could stoop so low as to become a land of pedophilia.

I wondered how these girls were made to fall into the trap of flesh trade and what incites them? I presume the lure of money alone in such a tender age is unwarranted. Is it because our society had made out the glitterati to be more reigning over the literati? And the beauty contests and its price money are given more priorities than the literary competition? Where is the need to reward the beauty queen when we all know inner beauty that counts ultimately? Don’t these things introduce promiscuity to the children at an early age? Is it the girl herself or the parents or the pimps or the society that motivate the girls to opt for sex trade? More importantly, do these girls know how the AIDS virus spread? If we assume the hearsay, then the persons who are already engaged in this profession act as a recruiting agent – enticing the young girls to a wild party and selling them
to clients who usually hunt for fresh product. It pains me to put forward this question: do these clients think they’re doing the right thing by sharing a bed with minor? And there are pimps who again take advantage of their reputation and exploit them to make easy money. Then again, we cannot hold the prostitutes and pimps responsible for entire businesses, though they play a pivotal role. There are some affluent people also who is equally responsible and foster this profession by seeking their services. As for the solution, it doesn’t lie in overlooking the reality or locking up the female child in a closed door room. And the police, I fear, will fail to stop the prostitutes from carrying out their covert operation as long as the recruiting agent looms large and go unpunished. Until then, no one’s daughter is safe from harm as there’s no telling where or when your daughter will be invited to a party. And who knows, those who are hunting for pleasure and seek fresh product might end up introducing himself to his own daughter.

To conclude, it clearly manifests itself from the fact that the AIDS and sex is complimentary to each other. And, in Arunachal, HIV is definitely going to create a wanton havoc as the awareness of this smoldering threat is very low. I am not suggesting in any subtle way that there never was an AIDS awareness campaign. In fact, a lot of half-hearted awareness campaigns were conducted which addressed to a handful of audiences. However, it is not enough. They need to deliver this message to the people who are most vulnerable, not to the Gaon Buras and Buris (village elders). And the people who are assigned to propagate the AIDS awareness should help out spontaneously. Their work should not be cynic and to show off or to extract a fund from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The so-called “cultured elite” of Arunachal may sleep through the perilous hours.

So, wake up Genex!


  • EmoreL

    Nice Article.

    But does it necessitate, girl's promiscuity being the major carrier? To some extent(infact most of it) it seems true. But,why single out girls? Why fear, closing or guarding them 24/7... If this fear really propagates, I would say , our self deemed uprightness of being a Male, certainly has to do with that kind of notions. And Ya..we've been thinking this way, for long time it seems....

    Well, lets hope that balloon is sterilized before its bursts out...ya offcourse... stealthily...

  • AbotanisDaughter

    Another very important and thought provoking article.

    The subject of AIDS is certainly a shadow that threatens to engulf all of India.
    And the greatest killer is ignorance about the subject. It is mostly the poor and ignorant who fall prey to this disease.
    Look at Thailand. They have a flourishing sex trade and was tipped to be one of the countries with most HIV rates but it did not happen because of effective government controls and safe sex education.

    So there is hope but first you do need to dispel the ignorance and the awkwardness of discussing such subjects.
    Sex in India or Arunachal for that matter is still such a taboo subject that people either do not talk about it. It is awkward to talk about such subjects.
    But it is so important as well that you have to tell your loved ones that this is a death sentence if you don't take proper precautions.

    I hope all young arunachalis reading this imprtant article will learn a very valuable lesson and make the right choices.
    And no sex is not a laughing matter, it is a matter of life and death.

  • AG

    I guess, since the spread of AIDS in Arunachal is mainly due to sex and not through IVDU's as the survey suggests, the author tried to put emphasis on flourishing sex trade in the state and that too by the minors lured into the profession for whatever reasons-ecstasy(as author puts it), adventure or the lure of the money. And I feel, he doesn't try to propagate the male chauvinism through this article by emphasising on sex trade carried out by the minors, who doesn't have an iota of knowledge about this deadly virus or how it spreads, I bet, but he tries to emphasize and warn that since this trade is carried out covertly by our own, making it all the more difficult to identify them, the next target could be your or my sister or daughter pushed into this trade and exposed to the world of the that the minors may not be lured into this profession.

    "And no sex is not a laughing matter, it is a matter of life and death.---I couldn't agree more with you on that. Hope people would come out of their inhibition in discussing about sex and risks involved with unprotected sex.

  • chobin

    @ emorel,

    I didn’t intend to single out womenfolk. I am sorry if my article gave you that impression. I was just trying to present a facet of hard facts. Anyway, I have a deep respect for womenfolk. Being a brother of five sisters, I fear for their safety. I fear for all those innocent girls who may get trap into wrongdoings. Thus; I had to stick my nose into AIDS arena (although it is not my specialty) with a hope that it may help the womenfolk, and also the men folk, in a small way to understand the ground reality.

    Last but not least, a source told me that HIV in Arunachal will produce it result within 15 years. Will we really be able to contain the infectivity if people keep denying having multiple sexual partners? I doubt it.

  • gunsmoke

    What will get the state in the end is not whether we (especially the money-minting NGOs) take to the microphones and lay down the usual crap about safe sex and avoiding prosmicuity. I will take the trouble to ask the obvious question: What in hell's name are we doing about those who have been detected as being HIV positive? Are we going to just let them hang around and spread the syndrome? The state should start thinking about a tangible programme to halt these people from spreading AIDS, instead of only hammering on condoms through its awareness programmes. Not that such programmes are bad, per se, but tell me, are they serving their purpose?

  • Buru

    "Are we going to just let them hang around and spread the syndrome?"

    In a democracy we have not much options but to do just that. At most the Govt can make it legally imperative to inform the spouses of such people, or make it mandatory to inform their HIV status to partners before marriage.A percentage of people becomes infected for no fault of theirs(eg unfaithful partner/blood transfusions) so its not possible to put in ironclad policies against it.

    "are they serving their purpose"

    It does, and tremendously but which may not produce immediate or apparent results(that is ,if done properly.In AP money trumps policies any day).
    A similar programme in the Sonagachi red-light district of Calcutta has kept HIV+ve status of its prostitutes at a lowly 5% , whereas HIV+ve rates in other metros redlight areas like Mumbai(Kamathipura)and Delhi(GB road) are sky high--at over 50% & 80% respectively!

  • gunsmoke

    Okay, I give up. But that doesn't mean I won't be back here fifteeen years down the line, saying the same thing.

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