Thursday, December 21, 2006

They are Highly Insensitive Vermins - But... Am I Denounced Sinful?

I am a young boy studying in school. I am 4 years old. Everyday when I go to school, I get weird stares from everybody. Nobody sits with me. Not even Ramu, who is the best boy in school and is friends with even the watchman. He is always smiling and talking in class, but he is upset with me. I don’t know why. He does not talk to me anymore.
Everything was nice and beautiful when I joined school, I had friends. I played with them all the time. We drew pictures together. We had lunch together. But something changed when my teacher got to know about my mom, dad and me. We are a nice family like any other. My mom and dad are nice, they buy me whatever I ask for. But strangely they can’t buy me friends. Neither do they have friends. We never visit anyone, nor does anybody visit us. Not that we are bored with ourselves, we have the TV and video games, but we sure could use some company from time to time.
My mom says I have to get used to living alone. She says we have been cursed with something. I ask God everyday if I have done something wrong, but I don’t get any answer.
My mom silently cries sometime in the Pooja room or in the bed room. My dad is sometimes engrossed in deep thought. I don’t know what they are so sad about, but I think they also miss friends like me.
Now my mom says I can’t go to school any more. I like going to school, it is so much fun. I cried, and she cried with me, but insists I can’t go there anymore.
WHY? Why me?
I am sure these were the thoughts in the young boy’s mind when he was sent home from school. After all he was HIV infected. The dreaded infection!
This infection incidentally is more dreaded because of its “cause” rather than it’s “effect”.
I had a friend, who was doing her masters in social work, and she happened to do some research on AIDS patients and yes, it is traumatic. Especially when the patient is in the last stages, it is impossible to even look at them. They will have acute infections in their private parts and a simple thing as going to the loo is a traumatic exercise.
But then, isn’t any disease traumatic? What about Cancer? What about TB? In all these cases the patients die a slow and painful death. But why this terrible discrimination only against AIDS? Is it only because it is transmitted sexually? The answer is YES.
First and foremost, let us clear some myths about this disease:
  1. HIV infection does not necessarily mean AIDS. HIV +ve simply mean you have the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Just like any other infection, if this is also treated in the very initial stages of infection, chances of NOT getting AIDS are high. But then we must also note here that most of the patients who are HIV +ve contact AIDS at some point or the other simply because the initial infection went un-noticed.
  2. HIV infection (or even for that matter AIDS) is NOT transmitted just like that thru air. It does not affect if you sit in the same class and study together. (Only lice and common cold get transmitted that way!)
  3. It’s NOT a person’s fault if he is infected. People catch so many infections and he/she has caught this one. It is as simple as that. And for heaven’s sake it is definitely not the fault of a 4 year old kid!!

What can we do to stop this discrimination?

  1. EDUCATE: Start from schools. Educate the children as well as the parents about the infection. Its causes, its effects and the myths/stigma surrounding it.
  2. Promote usage of condoms. Make it available in colleges and universities and educate people about it.
  3. Advertise. With the power the media has today, it can do wonders. Tell more and more people about it. Knowledge is virtue. But half knowledge is dangerous. People now think of only the sexual part of AIDS. Hence the treatment is also the same. It's time to remove that mental block.

Incidentally, a little away from the topic, I feel us Indians are major hypocrites. When it comes to population we are the second largest in the world. When it comes to AIDS, we are the epicenter of the epidemic. We gave the world Kamasutra. I think we are the only culture who glorifies sex (what with the “first night” preparations and all). BUT when it comes to talking about sex… SHHHHhhhhhhhh. That is something which is not to be talked about!!! Why this treatment? By not talking about it and making it a stigma we are indirectly giving more importance to it. But at the same time, since the education level is so low and the awareness about safe sex practices is almost nil … it is not a surprise that we are in such a situation today.

Having said all this, I don’t think even education will solve everything. I don’t know how my parents would react if they came to know that I was close friends with a girl who is HIV infected. Though at present I am not sure how they would react, but I can tell for sure that they will definitely not be very happy about it.

So what is the solution? Let us, from our generation at least make an effort to accept these people as a part of our society. It would be too idealistic to say we will eradicate AIDS. This is kind of too far fetched, as there is no cure/vaccine for it as yet!Till some brilliant people find something about it, let us join hands together and educate our fellow country men and women about the disease and let us make this world a better place to live for the already suffering.

P.S: Reasons for this post:

1. This Link


2. Pavan's request.


pavan kumar said...

write-up on thoughts from the kid's perspective is awesome..

hopefully last 2 paras would make sense and give new meaning (thru efforts) to our so-called "generation X"

we should be equally receptive to such concerns and not limit ourselves to embracing only the technology, fashion etc.

PS: Abt 2 days back, I read that AP govt. would make it mandatory for couples registering their marriages to undergo AIDS test (the results would be confidential, ofcourse) though the govt is still unsure what they would do with the collected data (maybe it is just to create awareness).. AP is 2nd largest state in India after Maharashtra with AIDS affected people..

ssk said...

thought provoking !!! As a pessimistic cynic ..i wud scoff at the thought of indians being anything other than a hypocrite. .. See I am a hypocrite now :).

Sudhakar said...

Very Good post Shark.

I work closely with an Voluntary organization supporting HIV positive patients and I have seen many people who are in good health even after five years by taking Anti retroval drugs

Only thing they need more than medication is support from the family and society.

I appreciate your efforts for putting this up and I'm quite suprised to see not many comments even after five days after this post.

praneshachar said...

very interesting post and a very thought provoking too. yes it is the need of the day to acccept these and bring them to main stream
lot of awareness progammes are needed and that is to be done ny NGO's and other social organisation who are commtted for the cause. govt. agenecies too will do but because bureacracy and funds lot of slips will be there between the cup and lip
I appreciate your concern for the society
I also went through your bharatanatyam blog wornderful
it was nice meeting you yesterday
very happy for your concern to meet all of us for which you patiently waited outside RS
thanks and wishing you all success in all your endeavours

Praneshachar said...


shark said...

@pavan: Thanks :) Oh I didn't know that AP had so many AIDS pateints. I expected Maharashtra... but AP? SUrprising!

@ssk: Hypocrites are not.. if we just fight for the right cause, I think it's more than enough :)

@sudhakar: Thanks! Great to know that you are helping these people in your own way.. we need more people like you :)
I am also a little surpirsed by the low response.. but I think people are in holiday mood and no time for blogging :)

@praneshachar: First of all welcome here :) It was nice meeting you too.
And a very happy new year to you too :)

Srik said...

Nice thought provoking post. I have nothing much to say about it.

Thanks for the same.
And yeah, Happy new year!!