Posted by: Sanjeev | May 17, 2008

(HIV) Positive

A large room has been rented at the Constitution Club. A banner has been placed on the wall. Everyone seems a bit excited and energized.

Like most conferences, there is a certain pacing. The morning brings its slow gatherings and takings-of-seats. But by mid-day, old friends are reuniting, and battle-tested colleagues are saying hello.

It is a meeting of a national coalition to pass an HIV/AIDS law. There are NGO staff here. There are advocates from the Lawyer’s Collective. And there are many people from HIV Positive networks — Indians with HIV who have turned their life challenges into a source of energy and purpose.

I’m here to learn, though I officially come as a consultant with the Lawyers Collective. Such is the opportunity of my professional background. I have something to offer in terms of political strategy and “messaging,” while simultaneously learning even more just by being in the room.

You would never know that some of the women in this conference are survivors of family expulsions. They are HIV positive themselves, perhaps because their ex-husbands used intravenous drugs or visited prostitutes. But in the conservative extended families that they married into, the wives were sometimes blamed for bringing the disease into the home. And thrown out.

And so these women — as well as HIV positive men — perservere through the new families of their HIV-positive networks. And they play a key role in advocating for precisely the kinds of laws that might protect other HIV positive people from similar ostracism.

I feel secretly flattered, because as the conferees break up into subgroups, they are using my talking points and agendas. One team of people talks through a legislative strategy for Parliament. Another team talks through activist plans. And a third discusses ways to build media awareness.

The discussions bounce between Hindi and English. There are South Indians who speak no Hindi, North Indians who speak no English, and many who speak both. So political discussions are interspersed with casual translations.

The Lawyer’s Collective wrote the Draft HIV/AIDS law at the center of this effort. But now that the hard work of writing the draft law is done, the hard work of getting it passed must begin.

To stop HIV’s spread in India, people with HIV need to feel safe enough to come out of the shadows. They need to no longer risk family ostracism, job loss, or school expulsion.

A new law can help provide the rights and legal security that HIV-positive Indians need.  Now Parliament just needs to take action.



  1. kool article ..

    really amjing

    i gonna bookmark this page

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