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Is India finally waking up to its AIDS problem?

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on August 14, 2006

Just in time for the big AIDS conference now taking place in Toronto, some good news at long last from India. The country has more HIV patients than anywhere else in the world, but officials from Western NGOs in the past have harshly criticized the Indian government’s unwillingness to tackle the problem. And – especially galling for Indian patriots jittery about China – those same officials have praised the way the Chinese have moved aggressively to combat the virus. (One example: Dick Holbrooke, the former U.N. ambassador under Bill Clinton who now is head of the New York-based Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS. Here’s an interview with Holbrooke from last autumn when he was in Hong Kong.)

Ironically, India’s rise as an IT power may only be making the situation worse since so many young people who work in the call centers are single, living away from home for the first time, hard-partying – and sexually active. (In India, 80% of HIV infections are sexually transmitted.) So far, AIDS has been a poor person’s disease in India, but that won’t last if the virus establishes itself among the call center workers, says John Tedstrom, the new executive director of Holbrooke’s NGO. “Movement into the middle class presents a potentially scary scenario five years out from now if they don’t do anything,” says Tedstrom. (I spoke with him and some other execs from the Global Business Coalition last week in New York.)

But, he adds, they are actually doing something. Tedstrom is impressed with the willingness of the Indian government to wake up to its HIV problem. He is encouraged, for instance, by the government’s formation of a national council to coordinate HIV policy among dozens of ministries. The director-general of the National AIDS Control Organization, Sujatha Rao, also wins kudos from GBC execs. The change is due largely to the departure of the BJP and the arrival of a Congress Party-led coalition government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The prime minister “is taking a much more pro-active approach,” says Tedstrom. India sure needs it. The GBC just did a survey of 20 call centers in India. Even with the obvious risks to their workers, only one-third of the companies had come up with HIV policies for their staff.

Reader Comments

Shankar Kambam

August 21, 2006 6:53 AM

Over the past ten years, while the government with help from various NGOs has succeeded in increasing the awareness levels regarding AIDS in India, the fact remains that the disease is becoming more and more widespread.

In the month when India entered into its 60th year of independence, it has also achieved the ignominious distinction of being the country with the highest number of people with AIDS in the world.

While I agree with Tedstrom when he paints the grim picture of the disease spreading into the Indian middle class, what is not understandable is the attempted linkage of this spread with the IT emergence of the country. While IT remains the most visible aspect of India in the western view (along with the Taj Mahal, Yoga & Kamasutra) the fact remains that less than 3% of the the working population is actually employed in the IT sector.

The real focus needs to be on the millions of factory workers, labourers and the rural population. They are the most vulnerable as well as susceptible!

Brother Khushi Lal, OFM

March 18, 2009 6:16 PM

Introduction Letter New Light AIDS Control Society:
New Light AIDS Control Society is a non-profit organization. It is the first formal organization to be established in Pakistan for people Living with HIV and AIDS. The basic purpose to establish this organization is to prevent the dissemination of HIV and AIDS and to highlight the issues of People Living with Aids. NLACS also provides assistance to HIV positive persons to live a quality life and to support to deal with routine life issues. NLACS provides treatment, care and support services to HIV positive persons without any religious, ethnic, linguistic and social discrimination. The organization is registered under Societies Registration Act and is also the holder of Tax Exemption Certificate. It is operative in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan and Karachi.
Mission Statement:
Prevention of the dissemination of HIV and AIDS, highlight the issues of People Living with HIV and AIDS and share the message of hope and light.
Brief Background to the Situation:
AIDS has become the most devastating disease humankind has ever faced; worldwide it is the fourth biggest killer. Although HIV & AIDS is a preventable disease yet at the end of 2008, facts and figures related to HIV & AIDS are shocking and a question mark for people involved in the process of combating HIV & AIDS in the World, about 40 million people live with the virus, only in 2006, 4.3 million people were infected with HIV, and out of these children under 15 years are 530 000 (410 000–660 000), whereas 2.9 million people died because of AIDS and the proportion of women affected is increasing. Today, daily 11000 people are being infected with HIV & AIDS in the world, and out of these 11000, about 10,000 are adults where as 1000 are children and out of these ten thousand 50% are women. The number in Asian countries is increasing very fast, today there are 8.6 million people are infected with HIV in ASIA.
Our History
New Light AIDS Control Society was founded on 17th of July, 1994 and later on registered in 1999 under Societies Act 1860. Starting with street-to-street, door-to-door and house-to-house outreach and person-to-person connections, the New Light AIDS Control Society started a conversation about HIV/AIDS at a time when it was a taboo subject, and in a community that no one was serving and no one wanted to speak about. We held and helped those whom others were afraid to touch, and in those difficult early years, our work confronted with many obstacles culturally and religiously.
From that humble beginning, we have continually expanded and deepened our focus to respond to the challenging HIV/AIDS epidemic, and we have become leaders in effective, evidence-based HIV prevention and risk-reduction in Pakistan. Today, in addition to being the loyal organization working with people living with AIDS, we provide a full range of culturally relevant services to anyone who is at risk for or infected/affected by HIV/AIDS. Through 16 years of experience we have gained unparalleled competence in serving minority communities, underserved persons, and disproportionately affected groups (i.e., persons who are homeless, chemically dependent, incarcerated, low-income, mentally ill, sex workers) who perceive barriers to prevention, care, and solutions to their medical, social, mental health, and physical needs.
In the first ten years of the epidemic, many believed that a cure or a vaccine was around the corner. Unfortunately, while remarkable advances in treatment mean that HIV infection is no longer the death sentence as it was, neither a permanent cure nor a preventive vaccine have been forthcoming. Today, as in the days when the New Light AIDS Control Society walking door-to-door handing hand-made pamphlets, prevention remains our most powerful protection against HIV. Compassion, perseverance and hope are still the weapons we have to fight for life in the face of AIDS.
Who Are We?
New Light AIDS Control Society is a community-based nonprofit, nonpartisan organization located in Pakistan. Our diverse staff reflects the populations and communities we serve, and collectively have more than 25 years of combined experience working with traditionally marginalized underserved and disproportionately affected groups.
Who Do We Serve?
• Anyone who wants to know more about HIV/AIDS.
• Anyone who has unprotected sex.
• Anyone who shares needles or uses drugs.
• Anyone with a family member or friend infected/affected by HIV/AIDS.
• Anyone who is infected with HIV/AIDS.
Why Would You Get Involved with NLACS?
• To learn more about HIV/AIDS and how to protect yourself and the people you love.
• For a personalized assessment of your own risk, and a customized risk reduction plan.
• To get tested for HIV or Syphilis.
• For financial assistance, food, or transportation if you’re HIV+ or have AIDS.
• For referral services for substance abuse treatment, prenatal care, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and other needs.
• For mental health services, peer support, and a sense of belonging.
• For access to medical and case management services.
• Because you’re infected with, affected by, or at risk for HIV and you just need someone to talk to. We’re here for you!
NLACS is Unique:
New Light AIDS Control Society is the first founded loyal staff-led HIV/AIDS services agency in Pakistan. New Light AIDS Control Society serves more than 300 HIV + families annually (Each family contains 5 individuals which makes the number up to 1500 individuals), and educates more than 5000 people per year. New Light AIDS Control Society is client-centered, and will customize service plans to meet every individual’s needs.
You are cordially invited to make any more inquiry upon the New Light AIDS Control Society on our email address:
Or please visit our website:
Your moral and financial support is extremely needed and highly appreciated!

Yours truly,
Brother Khushi Lal, OFM

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