. Space Travel News .

AIDS stalks gay and transgender Indians
by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) Aug 24, 2011

India's success in slashing HIV/AIDS infection rates by 50 percent in the last decade masks a high rate of infection among homosexual and transgender people, experts say.

This anomaly was highlighted last month by the country's Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad in a now notorious speech at an AIDS conference that will be remembered for other reasons.

Azad went on to call homosexuality "a disease which has come from other countries" and "unnatural", in comments widely condemned by gay rights activists and AIDS workers.

At the Pahal Foundation in the northern state of Haryana, which provides free HIV tests, condoms and counselling services to gay and transgender people, project manager Maksoom Ali says he faces a constant battle against ignorance. Most gay men, fearing homophobia, are forced to hide their sexual activity, and others have no idea about the dangers of unprotected intercourse, he said.

"Many people think that men having sex with men cannot get HIV and that's one reason why (homosexual and transgender) people have a lot of unsafe sex," Ali told AFP.

The country's National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) estimates that 7.3 percent of India's homosexual population lives with HIV, compared with 0.31 percent of the total adult population.

The UN AIDS agency estimated that around a third of men who have sex with men in India fail to access services like HIV testing, sex education and free condom supplies.

Many of the people who use Pahal's services are low-paid factory workers, labourers, or sex workers like 25-year-old Sanam who first came to the centre three years ago.

Sanam, a transgender whose original name was Sushil Kumar Pandey, told AFP she knew nothing about sexually transmitted diseases when she entered the sex trade.

"I never used to take it seriously, we used to do it without condoms," she said.

She learnt about HIV/AIDS only after visiting the Pahal premises.

"They first conducted a blood test on me, then they told me about HIV, what it is, how it spreads. Because of that I always use condoms," she said.

Although the Indian government has committed funds to HIV-fighting organisations that work with the gay and transgender community, many NGOs say that financing falls short.

The Pahal Foundation says it treats 50 percent more people than it has budgeted for.

Gay rights activist and UNAIDS technical officer for sexual minorities, Ashok Row Kavi, said that authorities lack a true awareness of the problem in the gay community.

"We don't have a proper denominator for the number of MSM (men having sex with men), and that number is much higher than what we are willing to accept," he told AFP.

"It's very worrying because hardly four percent of the (government) money for fighting HIV is coming to MSM groups," he added.

Attitudes to homosexuality are slowly changing in India, although it is still often viewed as a mental illness or something shameful to be ignored, particularly in rural areas.

Two years ago, a landmark Delhi High Court ruling decriminalised homosexuality, which was illegal under a 150-year-old British colonial law that banned "carnal intercourse against the order of nature".

Conviction carried a fine and maximum 10-year jail sentence.

But many gay and transgender sex workers who spoke to AFP said they continue to face verbal and physical abuse on a regular basis.

Rupali, a 24-year-old transgender sex worker whose original name was Lalit Sharma, said she feared for her safety nearly every day.

"There are people who turn up drunk, local goons, we have to convince them that there is such a frightening disease going around, there can be a problem like this, so use a condom," she told AFP.

But sometimes, she said, customers used force to pressure her and other sex workers to have unprotected sex.

Most of all she feared the police. "They force us to have sex, they take our money and then they beat us up," she said.

Related Links
Epidemics on Earth - Bird Flu, HIV/AIDS, Ebola

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries

Six-year-old dies of bird flu in Cambodia: WHO
Phnom Penh (AFP) Aug 24, 2011 - A six-year-old Cambodian girl has become the eighth person to die from bird flu in the country this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday.

The child, from eastern Kampong Cham province, died on August 14 after contracting H5N1 avian influenza, the health ministry and WHO said in a joint statement.

"The girl is the 18th person in Cambodia to become infected with the H5N1 virus and the 16th to die from complications of the disease," since 2005 they said, adding that she had been in contact with sick or dead poultry before falling ill.

All eight of Cambodia's bird flu cases since January have been fatal. Seven of the victims were children.

The H5N1 strain of avian influenza has killed 331 people worldwide since 2003, the statement said.

. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Antibody trawl helps search for HIV vaccine
Paris (AFP) Aug 17, 2011
Researchers into HIV said they had identified 17 potent antibodies whose discovery opened up valuable pathways in the search for an AIDS vaccine. Antibodies are the foot soldiers in the immune system, latching onto viral or microbial intruders and tagging them for destruction by specialised "killer" cells. Priming antibodies to recognise pathogens is a textbook method in vaccines, althou ... read more

Russia loses contact with new satellite

China successfully launches maritime satellite

NASA selects Virgin Galactic for Suborbital Flights

Arabsat-5C is welcomed in French Guiana for Arianespace's next Ariane 5 launch

France, Russia talk of Mars mission

Possibility of Mars microbial life eyed

Arrival in the Arctic

Opportunity Reaches Endeavour Crater

Man in the Moon Looking Younger

GRAIL Moon Twins are Joined to Their Booster

Moon younger than previously thought

GRAIL Launch Less Than One Month Away

The PI's Perspective: Visiting Four Moons, in Just Four Years, for All Mankind

Citizen Scientists Discover a New Horizons Flyby Target

View from the Summit: Hunting for KBOs at the Top of the World

Hubble telescope spots tiny fourth moon near Pluto

Hubble to Target 'Hot Jupiters'

Stellar eclipse gives glimpse of exoplanet

Alien World is Blacker than Coal

Strange planet is blacker than coal

US looks for answers after hypersonic plane fails

US military loses contact with hypersonic aircraft

NASA Selects Companies To Study Storing Cryogenic Propellants In Space

Ball Aerospace Develops Flight Computers for Next-Generation Launch Vehicles

Chinese orbiter launch failure will not affect unmanned space module launch

Rocket malfunction causes satellite to not reach preset orbit

China satellite aborts mission after 'malfunction'

Pausing for Tiangong

NASA Plans to Visit a Near-Earth Asteroid

Comet Elenin Poses No Threat to Earth

Asteroid Photographer Beams Back Science Data

A Comet Collision to Come?

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2011 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement