India’s Gay Community to Fight Fast Spread of AIDS
Associated Press, January
secretive gay community is emerging to fight the fast spread of the AIDS
disease among homosexuals and street children.
At least 10 homosexual groups have formed a common
platform called “Manas”—the Hindi word for “thought”—with the
intention of stopping the spread of the AIDS, gay activists said Tuesday.
“Ten ... groups have decided to work together against
AIDS and the focus would be on spreading awareness and providing support and
counseling to homosexuals,” Amitava Sarkar of People Like Us, one of the
homosexual groups, told The Associated Press.
Last year about 610,000 Indians contracted the HIV virus
that can lead to AIDS, raising the overall number of infected Indians to about
4.5 million, according to a study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation. That figure, which India’s Health Ministry supports, is the
second-highest national total after South Africa. It does not include child
victims, who are not counted by the government.
But street children are among the focus groups of the
Manas program, said Saurav Banerjee of the Prajak voluntary group.
“Sex happens among street children at a very early age,
making them a medium-risk group. So we have decided to involve them in our
initiative,” he said.
The campaign will begin in Calcutta, capital of West
Bengal state, where some 200,000 children are estimated to live on the
Homosexuality is banned in India under a law first framed
by British colonialists. Manas members said the AIDS control program would be
hampered if the government does not withdraw the law because homosexuals will
not seek screening for the disease or help to combat it.
“Homosexuality is practiced clandestinely and it will
remain so if the government continues to consider gays and lesbians criminals.
And this will not help fight AIDS among homosexuals,” said Sarkar.
The Manas campaign is financed solely by the West Bengal
The east Indian state has agreed to fund Manas because
the program itself is not identified as homosexual, said Suresh Kumar, an
official with the West Bengal state AIDS Cell, a government department.
[Home] [World] [India]