We don’t like talking about sex
When we went to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, I was absolutely shocked to see the headline in the country’s major English newspaper the very next day.
President urges men to have just one sexual partner in their life to control the spread of AIDS.
It was a big bold headline and I was shocked. Fresh from India, I was not used to such headlines. Yes, ofcourse in our media a rape case might hog headlines for days with all its sensational details, but if our President does make a mention of AIDS, it will not merit any headline. Perhaps the media is right in reporting sensational rape cases and not AIDS messages. Everyone knows what happened when a newspaper reported Khushbhoo (an actress) giving an AIDS message. People thought she was promoting promiscuity when all she said was that people should practice safe sex! No wonder film stars in our country are wary talking about sex and AIDS.
But here was this little African country so far ahead of us in tackling the problem of AIDS. Therefore it is not surprising that Africa is rapidly coming to grips with it’s AIDS problem and we in India are sinking deeper into the mire. We have overtaken South Africa in the total number of AIDS cases, according to new official figures from South Africa’s official statistics agency.
Frankly this was not really news to me. I knew that India had far more AIDS cases than what the official figures mentioned and that we were already far ahead of South Africa. UNAIDS/WHO estimates show that the majority of people who suffer from AIDS in India do not know about it. This ignorance on part of our population has been documented. A UNICEF survey found that only 17% of Indian males and 21% of Indian females have awareness of HIV. Not surprisingly, almost 60% of the infected people are of rural background, although they may be living presently in an urban set-up.
If we have to tackle our AIDS problem, we need to talk about AIDS openly. In our drawing rooms. In our newspapers. On national television. On the radio. All the time. Our politicians have to talk about it. Celebrities have to talk about it. Without fear of being ridiculed or being ostracized. Our country is facing a crises and the AIDS epidemic needs to be tackled on a war footing.
(Worlds AIDS day is December 1st)
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