Walking the HIV+ talk

1. Will you readily accept the admission of some HIV+ children in your child’s school?
2. Will you knowingly and willingly interact with HIV+ persons?
3. Will you knowingly and willingly share a meal with HIV+ persons, using common plates and spoons?

Most of us have probably never faced these situations before. Most of us would probably have to apply a lot of thought before replying truthfully to these questions. Most of us would probably answer, “I’m not sure” to all 3 questions.

Early in July 2014, the parents of children studying in a school in Goa threatened to withdraw their children from the school if the management went ahead with the admission of 13 HIV+ children into the school. For further information, please read this Firstpost report. A few days later, another report stated that the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) of the school had also demanded the removal of 23 non-HIV students because they live in the same Church-run children’s home along with the 13 HIV+ve students, claiming their presence in school too could put the safety of their wards at risk.

On July 31, 2014, while speaking on this subject in the Goa State Assembly, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had “said Goans needed to work overtime to eradicate the stigma surrounding AIDS. He also promised he will eat a meal with HIV+ve students to make a broader point about AIDS and the myths surrounding it.”

Firstpost reports that “while many dismissed Parrikar’s promise as mere rhetoric, the chief minister … made good his word” on August 16, 2014 by “keeping his lunch-date with the inmates of the church-run Nitya Seva Niketan orphanage, several of whom suffer from HIV/AIDS.”

Some highlights from the Firstpost report (all statements by local MLA Subhash Phaldessai):
“All the children there were thrilled to see the chief minister. They were jumping all over him.
All of us used common plates and spoons… We tried to make our visit appear as casual and normal as possible, lest they feel that the Chief Minister was here to meet them because of their condition.”
We did not allow photographers because we did not want the identity of the HIV+ve children be disclosed.
“The Chief Minister assured them all the help possible from the Goa government as well as personally too. He will be sending across a television set as well as some video players and entertainment (games and play-kits).”

Reading or hearing about Mr. Parrikar’s visit to Nitya Seva Niketan would definitely have made many people think deeply about their own attitude to HIV+ people. Probably, some people’s attitudes would have changed to some extent. Unfortunately, the print and electronic media has not given Mr. Parrikar’s visit the kind of coverage that was earlier given to the statements by some of his party’s ministers and MLAs about bikinis, beaches, casinos and that “all Indians in Hindustan are Hindus”.

I wonder why. Is it because negative news brings many more readers/viewers than positive news? Don’t the media have a role to play in bringing about social change?

19 thoughts on “Walking the HIV+ talk

    • Nagesh, apart from people like Mr. Parrikar leading by example, it’s necessary to educate people on HIV/AIDS and many other issues. For example, a few years back, on a visit to a place where H1N1 flu was prevalent, I found many people wearing masks, but most of them were not following any of the other precautions.

  1. You know, Pro, negative news always brings more grist for the gossip mill. Moreover, people get more excited to hear something bad about someone and brush aside the good. Pretty much like this: if you keep doing something great, you are taken for granted. Slip up once, and the world never lets you forget it. That’s the way the good ol’ cookie crumbles.

    What the CM did was so commendable. In spite of so much education about the stigma of HIV/AIDS, people prefer not to know, and therefore, in their ignorance, behave like idiots.

    Thanks for bringing this post. Media does have a role in social change. I regularly watch some TV programs – “Savadhan India”, “Crime Patrol”, “Lakshya” (in Marathi) – and they do a pretty good job of dramatizing real life crimes/atrocities/misconceptions. Still, we have a long way to go, I guess 🙂

    My answers to the questions = yes, yes and yes.

    • Due to the associated stigma, HIV/AIDS is one of those subjects that many people are afraid to talk about. Hence, they avoid getting educated about HIV/AIDS and prefer to stay away from HIV+ persons. This is true about quite a few other illnesses. The only way forward is to ensure that people’s awareness is increased and well-known persons set the kind of example that Mr. Parrikar did.

      I have watched a few episodes of “Saavdhaan India” and “Crime Patrol”, but I think one big negative is these programs also give people ideas about how they can commit crimes and also educate them about methods used by the police to trace and nab criminals.

  2. Hi Proactive,

    Great post here. Sorry to see India still a decade behind Africa or my counry Cameroon with regards to AIDS and HIV.
    I had a live in maid who told me her seropositive status as l engaged her. I had a 3 months old son and two others. She was called Voilet and we loved her so much. Initially, my then husband, external family and some friends thought l was crazy. It latter on turned to respect. Voilet left my home to go and die. But l know my voilet died feeling loved…

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Marie! You are an inspiration!!

      Most trend-setters are initially labelled crazy. But they must not let the negative remarks of ignorant people deter them. The trend-setter may or may not be respected at a later date. But they should keep trying. It is only because of such determined efforts by many people that so many evil practices were stopped or reduced drastically.

  3. Hats off to Proactive Indian for this post & the CM of Goa for his attempt to educate people on HIV+cases.
    The Media also needs to give such news more attention to generate awareness amoung the ignorant masses.

  4. We have a long way to go to bring about the change in our society from regressive and outdated beliefs and traditions. Kudos to the CM for leading by example.

    • Yes, it’s a long way, but there is a way! Each one of us can lead by example on so many issues. We may not be able to achieve as much impact as a public figure, but we can have a positive impact on the people around us.

  5. I think its media to be blamed , they have put such articles etc without proper knowledge that the people have got a wrong impression of this disease.

    I had a experience because of my bad knowledge, I had just come to UK and joined my work and in the first week itself I was in a situation which involved some people who had it, I was so apprehensive, my senior saw it .. he asked me to leave and attend to something else .. later I was put through a course which actually made me see and that changed my view..

    I wish the media in india especially does not run after the TRP or whatever .. they are journalists and have some responsibility which i think they should be answerable to ..

    good luck to the CM of Goa and well done by him

  6. I agree, Pro. I really wish such stories were given much more wider coverage in the mainstream media. People in power can influence public opinion. I bet if it were a Bollywood star doing this kind of thing it would be in every publication and every channel! That’s the sad state of affairs of journalism in India.
    Coming to the main point of your post, yes as a society we do need to take a very hard look at our prejudices and misinformed beliefs about many things. The stigma associated with HIV and AIDS must go if we want to contain this very serious problem. And it must start with working on individual prejudices – one person at a time. Starting with oneself. Thanks for this thoughtful post!

    • Beloo, it would be welcome if a Bollwood star did something like this. It would attract public attention from all over the country.
      Yes, the stigma has to be removed first, and each one of us must start with himself/herself.

  7. I would definitely not have any issues interacting or sharing a meal with such a person. I know I am being extremely fussy here, but that’s what I felt when I read the question. But my answer to your first question unfortunately is ‘I am not sure.’ I am well-read about the disease but the risk of transmission through wounds is what makes me wonder if I will be alright with such a situation.

    The minister’s act is indeed appreciable. True to his words.

    And yes, the media only believes in sharing and spreading negative news. During the Kavadiyas travel to and fro to Haridwar, there were areas where Muslim folks fasting during Ramzaan were offering water and snacks to the Hindus devotees. I did not see this on any of the major news channels or newspapers. I have personally witnessed this and hence know how this incident would have impacted a majority of the society in a positive way. But why would media spread this? It will not support their hidden political agendas.

    Sharing this!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s