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International and Area Studies | Political Science


In the last ten years, we have seen frequent news reports on the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus in the Indian subcontinent, each one stressing the dire economic and social consequences if urgent attention is not paid to the problem. Although the Indian government has responded by adopting many policies and by establishing an organization — the National Aids Control Organization (NACO) — to deal specifically with HIV awareness, treatment for HIV infected individuals, and prevention of further spread of HIV/AIDS, many critics do not find these measures adequate.

The campaign to create awareness and check the spread of AIDS is a mammoth enterprise which involves collaboration between various institutions of the Indian government at national, state and local levels, along with international organizations such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as major private foundations from abroad (Gates Foundation, Bill Clinton Foundation, Elton John AIDS Foundation) in addition to local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and civil society institutions. Macro-level focus on the problem of HIV/AIDS in India is useful for highlighting the gravity of the problem and for evaluating its progress. However, we might also benefit by looking at the issue from the micro level — that is, through the grassroots efforts of various NGOs, and through the experiences of individuals coping with HIV/AIDS.

The reflections that follow offer a window into the quiet but major changes in social values and attitudes now taking place in Indian society as a result of its encounter with HIV/AIDS. It is easy to become pessimistic when we focus on the scale of HIV/AIDS infection in India. This journey into the activities of individuals and organizations engaged in raising awareness, empowering HIV infected persons, and stopping its further spread offers some glimmers of hope.