Strongly condemning the actions of Karnataka State health and police officials, that are fuelling the spread of HIV-AIDS
Health Department in Ramnagara District spreads misinformation against homosexuals making them further vulnerable to HIV infection: District AIDS Prevention and Control Unit, Ramanagara District and District Health and Family Welfare Officer, Ramanagara District have conducted the World AIDS Day program today in Ramanagra town and have spread the misinformation against homosexuals through public distribution of leaflets. Excerpts from the leaflet include ‘salingakama: HIV, AIDSge rahadhaari’ (meaning – Homosexuality: Highway to HIV, AIDS), ‘salingakaamigalinda dhooraviri’ (meaning – Stay away from Homosexuals) and warns people to stay away from homosexuals as a way to prevent AIDS. This messages spread prejudice, stigma and discrimination against homosexuals and make them further vulnerable to HIV infection. This is completely opposite to the strategy of National AIDS Control Program, which seeks to fight stigma and discrimination against homosexuals and support their human rights as a strategy to reduce their vulnerability to HIV infection. It is shocking that local health authorities are doing harm to HIV-AIDS program in Karnataka whereas Ms. K. Sujatha Rao (Director General of National AIDS Control Program) and Mr. Anbumani Ramodass (Union health minister) are in the forefront vocally demanding the decimalization of homosexual sex between consenting adults. To prevent AIDS, we need to reach out to homosexuals and support efforts for their health and human rights.
Background: Karnataka is one of the high prevalence states for HIV in India. There is a need for serious and committed efforts to combat AIDS to prevent new infections and to prevent collapse of the public health system, which is already in a bad shape. There is also a strong need to reach out to the people most vulnerable to HIV infection i.e. sexual minorities, sexworkers and Intravenous Drug Users etc. and support them in accessing various social entitlements. It is internationally proved that the best way to prevent HIV is to support the human rights of marginalized people including sexual minorities.
Ineffective functioning and corruption in Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society: Karnataka State AIDS Control Society, the main body to coordinate the governmental efforts against AIDS has come under severe criticism in the past few years for its ineffective functioning (not utilizing allocated funds properly and sending back most of the funds, frequent change of its directors, not involving people infected/most-affected by HIV in a meaningful way, not involving organizations working on HIV-AIDS issues in a meaningful way etc.) and financial corruption.
Police are purging hijras out of Bengaluru City, making them vulnerable to HIV infection: police have declared an illegal war on hijras (working class male-to-female transgenders) in the past 2 months. On 20th October 2008, when HIV-AIDS program staff (crisis team members of Sangama, an organization implementing the activities of National AIDS Control Program among hijras and homosexual/bisexual males in the city) enquired about the detention of 5 hijras by police, Police belonging to Banashakari Police Station stripped, verbally-physically-sexually assaulted and booked the HIV-AIDS workers on false charges. When human rights activists from various dalit-trade union-women’s-sexual minority-sexworker organizations questioned the illegal police actions, Banashankari Police verbally-physically-sexually assaulted them and booked them on false charges. Sangama’s crisis intervention is recognized as a best practice model to be emulated by other NGOs by the Indian Government in its National AIDS Control Plan – III (Strategy and Implementation Plan, NACP 3).
In 2nd week of November, Police from Sampigehalli and Amruthahalli police stations started spreading false rumors about already marginalized hijras including ‘hijras are kidnapping male children, making them transgenders by injecting with hormones, castrating them by force and forcing them into sexwork/begging’. Police tried to push hijras out of Dasarahalli area (where many hijras are living for many years) in Amruthalli police station limits through issuing written notices and pressurizing the house owners to throw their hijras tents out. This led to the large scale evictions of hijras out of this area and hijras are scattered and are living under the constant fear of police attacks. HIV-AIDS prevention efforts among hijras in Bengaluru is severely affected, as it is becoming impossible to reach out to hijras.
These actions of Karnataka health and police officials are putting the Karnataka HIV-AIDS prevention work at risk. There actions are fuelling prejudice and misinformation against homosexuals and hijras, one of the most marginalized populations of our society. These actions are fueling the spread of HIV-AIDS in the state.
We strongly condemn these actions of health and police officials and demand that the state and union governments take immediate corrective measures.
Geetha, General Secretary, Karnataka Sex Workers Union