"Incredible India, Invest in Communities!"

The Huffington Post
Dr. Alvaro Bermejo
Original Article:  huff.to/1INxtCT

I was looking forward to meeting the leaders of community responses to HIV from across the world. We had decided the 2015 meeting would be in February in India, a country that has led the way developing the generic anti-retroviral drugs that keep millions alive, a country that has taught us how to mobilise and provide services to key populations (sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender and hijras, drug users) at scale.

We were, it has to be said, disappointed. India’s efforts to combat HIV are currently going through a rough old time of it. With budget cuts to the AIDS programme for 2015-16; structural changes to the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO); ongoing difficulties in procuring antiretroviral drugs, diagnostic kits and condoms; and the re-emergence of homophobia in the wake of the Supreme Court Judgement on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code re-criminalising same sex relations, a comprehensive HIV response is very much in jeopardy.

According to the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for AIDS in Asia Pacific, Prasada Rao, in a recent article in the Hindustan Times, India needs to put another one million people on treatment and enhance testing and prevention programmes to cover 90% of key affected populations to achieve its target of ending AIDS as a public health threat.

Those key affected populations include marginalised groups such as men who have sex with men, the transgender and hijra communities. Despite Prime Minister Modi’s reform agenda, Section 377 continues to cast a dark shadow over India’s lesbian and gay population with minority rights being eroded away and individuals facing stigma, discrimination and violence, in some cases extortion and blackmail.

Full text of article available at link below:  huff.to/1INxtCT