Press Clippings: World AIDS Day All-India Run & Cultural Event Media Coverage (December 2012)

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Motivated to raise awareness about HIV, more than a thousand people participated in India HIV/AIDS Alliance‘s World AIDS Day All-India Run & Cultural Event on Sunday, December 2, 2012. The run was followed by music and drama performances celebrating life and diversity in the face of the epidemic. The event was enthusiastically received by participants and attracted considerable interest from the media. The following is a selection of the coverage.

In English:

English-language newspapers that covered the World AIDS Day All-India Run & Cultural Event include: The Hindustan Times, Deccan Herald, Millennium Post, The Hindu, The Pioneer, Business Line, The Indian Express, Political and Business Daily , The Tribune, The Asian Age, The English Daily, and The Sikh Times. (Click on images of the clippings to enlarge.)

In Hindi:

Hindi newspapers that covered the World AIDS Day All-India Run & Cultural Event include: Dainik Bhaskar, Amar Ujjala, Rashtriya Sahara, Aaj Samaj, Mahamedha, Voice of Politics, Dainik Bharati, Dainik Nav Jyoti, Qaumipatrika, Amrit India and Adhikar. (Click on images of the clippings to enlarge.)

For more photos, please click here to see our album on Facebook.

World AIDS Day Op-Ed: New Optimism, Old Challenges: Prioritizing High-Risk Groups at the Frontline of AIDS

In a new opinion piece published on OneWorld South Asia, Alliance India’s James Robertson argues that while India’s admirable progress in achieving a greater than 50 percent reduction in new HIV infections deserves accolades and emulation, it should not be mistaken for victory over the epidemic. Click here to read more.

World AIDS Day Op-Ed: Cross Out HIV Stigma

In her column in the Asian Age newspaper, Patralekha Chatterjee admires India’s progress and wonders about the future of the AIDS response in the country. Alliance India’s James Robertson is quoted. Click here to read more. The column was also picked up by the Deccan Chronicle.

Thanks to everyone who took part and helped make our World AIDS Day activities such a success. Many thanks again to our co-sponsors: Population Council; CitibankUNDPCentre for Advocacy & Research (CFAR)Delhi Frontrunners; and Blind Relief Association. Special appreciation also to National AIDS Control Organisation, Delhi State AIDS Control Society and the Delhi Police for their support in mounting this event. 

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India HIV/AIDS Alliance (Alliance India) is a diverse partnership that brings together committed organisations and communities to support a sustained response to HIV in India. Complementing the national programme in India, it works through capacity building, knowledge sharing, technical support and advocacy. Through our network of partners, Alliance India supports the delivery of effective, innovative, communitybased HIV programmes to key groups affected by the epidemic.

Remembering Sukanya: International Transgender Day of Remembrance 2012

This Diwali, Aarthi called. I expected her usual warm greetings and was unprepared for her distressed voice.

“I wanted to tell you sooner but could not get you on the phone. Abhi, I have bad news for you.”

I was very tensed. Aarthi had never spoken to me like this. “What happened?“

“You know Sukanya?”

”Sukanya? I haven’t heard from her in nine years. She vanished from my life. The last I knew she shifted to Bangalore without saying goodbye. What happened to her?”

Aarthi replied, now sobbing, “Sukanya’s no more!”

My heart skipped. There was silence. At last, I shouted, “How? When?”

“She went to Bangalore. Nobody knew where she was or what she was doing.”

I had first known Sukanya as a dusky hijra girl when she was no more than 26 years of age. She used to work with me as an outreach worker when we ran a special programme for transgenders and hijras in Mumbai at the Humsafar Trust. More than her physical beauty, I always knew Sukanya to be humble and well-cultured. She used to greet everyone with a beautiful, sweet smile and a polite voice.

We had a special bond between us from the start. Sukanya and I were like real sisters, but there was a side of her personality which I never figured out. Some used to joke that Sukanya could be identified from a kilometer away since she was always drunk. To hide her drinking, she wore heavy perfume and used mouth fresheners. I encouraged her to quit many times, but her promises to stop would be broken the next day.

Finally, I got mad. I shared my anger. Sukanya cried and kept crying. I tried my best to console her. Sukanya talked about the rejection from her family. She told me about her struggle for survival as a hijra. She was an outreach worker part time during the day, but at night she did sex work. Finally she broke down and revealed she was living with HIV for almost two years. She had no support and was terrified of dying. The more she worried, the more she drank.

Sukanya told me, “I want to finish this life so that I can come back in next one as a good girl. Sukanya means ‘good girl.’ The life of a hijra is full of discrimination, hatred, and loneliness. In the next life, I want to be a pretty girl. I want to have everything in life. I want the love of my parents. I want to be married and have kids. I want to be healthy, and I want to earn my income with dignity.”

I connected her to a mental health counsellor, and she started showing improvement. I was happy with her progress. I moved to a new job, and my contact with her reduced. The last I heard about her was that she wanted to reconnect with her family and left without telling anyone. It made me happy to think of her reunited with her parents and living at home in Karnataka. Until Aarthi called on Diwali.

Aarthi told me that Sukanya had been murdered, brutally. Her murderer is rumoured to be her longtime partner, who hanged her from a ceiling fan to give the impression of a suicide. The police have still not charged anyone with the crime. For the rest of the day, I could not speak to anyone but kept thinking: Is it so difficult for a transgender to find love, live with dignity and be accepted by her family?

Her murder is still sinking in, and my thoughts return to her again and again. Above all, I hope she comes back in another life as what she always wanted to be: Sukanya, a good girl, but honestly, she will always be one in my heart.

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Abhina Aher is Manager for the Pehchan programme at India HIV/AIDS Alliance in New Delhi.

With support from the Global Fund, Pehchan builds the capacity of 200 community-based organisations (CBOs) for men who have sex with men (MSM), transgenders and hijras in 17 states in India to be more effective partners in the government’s HIV prevention programme. By supporting the development of strong CBOs, Pehchan will address some of the capacity gaps that have often prevented CBOs from receiving government funding for much-needed HIV programming. Named Pehchan which in Hindi means ‘identity’, ‘recognition’ or ‘acknowledgement,’ this programme is implemented by India HIV/AIDS Alliance in consortium with Humsafar Trust, SAATHII, Sangama, and SIAAP and will reach 453,750 MSM, transgenders and hijras by 2015. It is the Global Fund’s largest single-country grant to date focused on the HIV response for vulnerable sexual minorities.

Making Pehchan: Why the Global Fund Matters for Sexual Minorities

Alliance India’s own Sonal Mehta is now a blogger for The Huffington Post’s “Big Push” campaign, an effort to galvanize increased support for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

In her first post, she describes how leaders in India’s MSM and transgender communities conceived, designed and led the implementation of Pehchan, the Global Fund’s largest single-country grant to date focused on the HIV response for vulnerable sexual minorities:

In late 2007, a group of advocates for men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgenders in India were concerned that efforts to strengthen community systems for vulnerable sexual minorities were not getting the attention or funding needed.

The group organized around a basic but compelling principle: “MSM and transgender communities in India must act as equal partners in the national HIV response and work collectively to increase funding and expand programming for these populations.”

Over the next two years, this core group, together with other key leaders working with sexual minorities in India, went on to become the driving force behind the successful Global Fund proposal which has become the Fund’s largest single-country grant to date focused on the HIV response for vulnerable sexual minorities….

To read the complete article, please click here.

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Sonal Mehta is Director of Policy & Programmes at India HIV/AIDS Alliance in New Delhi. She leads a diverse and growing programme portfolio that includes Pehchan.

With support from the Global Fund, Pehchan builds the capacity of 200 community-based organisations (CBOs) for men who have sex with men (MSM), transgenders and hijras in 17 states in India to be more effective partners in the government’s HIV prevention programme. By supporting the development of strong CBOs, Pehchan will address some of the capacity gaps that have often prevented CBOs from receiving government funding for much-needed HIV programming. Named Pehchan which in Hindi means ‘identity’, ‘recognition’ or ‘acknowledgement,’ this programme is implemented by India HIV/AIDS Alliance in consortium with Humsafar Trust, SAATHII, Sangama, and SIAAP and will reach 453,750 MSM, transgenders and hijras by 2015. It is the Global Fund’s largest single-country grant to date focused on the HIV response for vulnerable sexual minorities.

Hey, Marc Jacobs: We are all innocent!

The eminent American fashion designer Marc Jacobs recently offered two new tee-shirts for sale in his Marc by Marc Jacobs stores. One blue and one pink, these shirts draw attention to “Innocent Victims” of the epidemic: families living with HIV/AIDS and children with HIV/AIDS. We are encouraged to help them and to end their suffering, actions no doubt to be admired.

While Marc Jacobs’ intentions can be applauded—proceeds from sales support the charity Aid for AIDS—the implication that there are some with HIV who are innocent and others who are not is troubling. Is a sex worker with HIV somehow guilty? Or a gay man? Or an injection drug user? Or a transgender person?

Indeed, in almost all parts of the world, these populations bear a disproportionate burden of the disease and yet fail to receive the response they need. They are viewed as less deserving because presumably they were somehow complicit in their infection. But HIV is not a gauge of vice or virtue; it is a virus that makes no such distinctions, nor should we. No one living with HIV or vulnerable to it is any more or less deserving of compassion or support than any one else.

A quarter century ago, AIDS activists pushed back against the disempowering description of people living with HIV (PLHIV) as “victims.” Living with a virus is markedly different than being victimized by one. For all the suffering wrought by this epidemic, its history is defined by individuals and communities who have embraced the challenges of this disease, giving face and voice to the response, and through their strength, have found ways to fight back.

Marc, you clearly understand that the epidemic still rages, and I give you credit for your intentions. But why don’t you make this tee-shirt instead:

We are all innocent! Stand up for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Or one like it, one that celebrates the power of PLHIV. India HIV/AIDS Alliance would be a grateful beneficiary, and there’s some quite fabulous people here in India living with the virus—gay men, sex workers, transgenders, and people who inject drugs, as well as children and families—who would happily be the faces on your new shirt. I know them, and I can assure you: They are all innocent and all deserving of our concern.

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The author of this post, James Robertson, is Country Director of India HIV/AIDS Alliance.