Writers give voice to India's AIDS sufferers

Mon Oct 20, 2008 3:51pm EDT
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK Oct 20 (Reuters Life) - What better way to give a voice to the 2.7 million people in India living with HIV/AIDS than to enlist the country's top authors to tell their stories?

Whether it is Salman Rushdie writing about the transgender community of Mumbai, Kiran Desai describing the plight of sex workers in Andhra Pradesh or any of the other 14 writers who contributed to "AIDS Sutra: Untold Stories from India," each presents a portrait of the groups affected by the illness.

"Besides giving the epidemic a human face, it is giving leaders a chance to look at groups that are being hit hardest, and why, and how they are being affected," said Negar Akhavi, of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who edited the anthology.

She spoke to Reuters about the inspiration behind the book and the stigma that still surrounds AIDS in India.

Q: Where did the idea for "AIDS Sutra" originate?

A: "After two years (of working with the Gates Foundation India AIDS initiative) I came to the conclusion that the biggest challenge to doing HIV work in India was the stigma and apathy around the epidemic. So it really came from the idea that if people could understand more fully who is being affected by the epidemic, and how and why, then it would change the understanding of the Indian epidemic."

Q: How did you choose the format for the book?.

A: "We started with a list of what are all the stories we needed told if you fully want to understand the Indian epidemic because it is so marginalized and it is hidden. What are the issues in the communities you need to be accessing? The fun part was really thinking of who could be the authors that could tell these stories in a way that would fit either stylistically or just seemed natural."   Continued...

<p>A man suffering from HIV/AIDS receives treatment at a drug de-addiction centre in the northeastern Indian city of Siliguri July 6, 2007. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri</p>