In 1989, Ashok Pillai, a radio operator in the Navy, tested positive for HIV. Thirteen years later, he is among the few courageous men and women who have come ‘open’, in order to extend support to those living with HIV and to spread awareness about the virus. It is a difficult battle, and an enormously important one. Today, HIV has assumed epidemic proportions. By 2001, close to 4 million men, women and children all over India, and across all classes, had been infected by it; one person per minute still continues to get the virus.
In Positive Lives, journalist Kalpana Jain, describes Ashok’s extraordinary journey—from a victim to a prominent advocate of positive people’s rights. Into this narrative she weaves stories from her travels to the AIDS hot spots in urban and rural Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Manipur and Bihar. In the hinterland she finds grandmothers looking after orphan children whose parents have succumbed to the disease; AIDS widows who have come together to provide each other support; and young men and women who are ready to marry positive persons.
Perhaps the first book of its kind in India, Positive Lives looks at many issues connected with HIV in the country; the changing sexual mores of the middle class, how poverty affects the spread of HIV, the ambivalent attitude of the government and medical establishment towards positive people, and the politics of donors and NGOs. Rich in detail, incisive and brave, this is a book for anyone concerned about the spread of HIV.