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ABVA releases digitized version of its 1990 citizens report "Women & AIDS - Denial and Blame"

30 November 2015

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sacw.net - 30 November 2015

Subject: ABVA releases digitized version of its report “Women & AIDS - Denial and Blame”

“… the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) has decided to set up permanent camps at certain locations. The mobile camps are set up four times a month, each screening high-risk individuals such as sex workers, migrants, drug users, truck drivers, men having sex with men and construction labourers. The Govandi slum has some 15,000 migrant labourers, mostly from UP, Bihar and Nepal, who live in matchbox-size rooms.” - The Sunday Express, 29 November, 2015

and

There are no bio-medical or physiological factors which make some groups rather than others more prone to HIV infection. Contrary to popular fantasy, the modes of transmission of HIV put many more people at risk than the label “high-risk group” implies. It is not what you are but what you do, and what blood-banks and blood product manufacturers and hospitals do, that constitutes the primary risk factor. It therefore becomes crucial to understand the spread of HIV in terms of activities and not groups which are at high-risk.” – Extracts from ‘Women & AIDS - Denial and Blame,’ 1990

On the eve of World AIDS Day, December 1, 2015, AIDS Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan is releasing the digitized version of its very first report titled “Women & AIDS – Denial and Blame”, twenty-five years after it was first published. The report is as relevant today as it was when the print version was first brought out. The above two quotes bear testimony to this.

In 1988, a group of Delhi-based voluntary workers involved in community work in education, health, law, women’s and gay issues came together over the plight of women working in G.B. Road, Delhi’s red-light area. In 1990 the group released this Citizens’ report. This was probably the first such report in India which documents the discrimination of HIV+ and AIDS patients as also of women in sex work. This group immediately after the release of the report organized itself into AIDS Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan (AIDS Anti-Discrimination Movement, ABVA) a non-funded, non-party organization. Till 2013 ABVA had shied away from the digital world because of its penchant for romance of the printed word!

An update is in order. In March 1990, the Delhi Police acquired notoriety when they ‘arrested’ 112 children of women in prostitution on the charge of being ‘neglected juveniles’, simply because their mothers were sex workers. The raid and its aftermath are documented in detail in the report. However, even after the Juvenile Welfare Board pronounced that the children were not neglected, the State went in appeal. The appeal was dismissed in March 1995 with the help of legal assistance provided by Shobha Aggarwal, advocate and member, ABVA.

Efforts to digitize the reports of ABVA have been undertaken as not much has changed in the last 25 years. The discrimination faced by HIV+ persons in India at the hands of the authorities is as rampant today as it was when the report was first brought out. Though not headline-hogging anymore, occasionally reports appear in the print media about such instances. In mid 2015 an instance of a 7 year old HIV+ student was reported; he was asked to leave school for being HIV+ in Bishmpur area of South-24 Parganas District in West Bengal, India. The boy’s maternal grandmother a teacher in the same school was forced to take a HIV test. The boy’s mother too had tested positive in January, 2015 and is now working with an NGO engaged in spreading awareness about HIV. The mother was earlier told by the school authorities that they were planning to set up a different room for the boy where he will sit alone away from others. In November 2015, the boy was allowed entry to the school; he said:
“I have packed my bag and taken out my uniform, my diary, my notebook and all other things are inside. I am so excited because I will meet my friends.”
Hopefully he will not be isolated in the classroom.

This child, his mother and grandmother were discriminated against because 100 odd parents of other school children had petitioned that the HIV+ child be asked to leave the school or they wouldn’t allow their wards to study there. Not just the authorities but the members of the local community harbour unfounded biases against HIV+ persons. No one has been taken to task for this discrimination. In a country where untouchability has a scriptural sanction of more than two millennium, the discrimination is embedded in the minds.

Only typographical errors of original printed report of 1990 have been rectified. Read the report here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5_-fAzc3ezudWFSUHEtMGZtTjg/view

AIDS Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan
Email: aidsbhedbhavvirodhiandolan at gmail.com

Women & AIDS - Denial And Blame.pdf - Google Drive