By Nancy Harris
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Extra resources for AIDS in Developing Countries
When members talk about the years before DMSC started in 1992, it’s as though they’re recalling bad dreams. Manju Biswas is typical. She was barely 13 when a neighbor in her village brought her to Kolkata on the pretext of finding her a job and sold her for $30 to a brothel keeper. Manju’s father, a subsistence farmer, had died and her mother and brother were facing starvation. She was completely illiterate. “I was kept in a small, dark room locked for days by the madam,” she told me. “Then one night I was forced to drink something that made me dizzy, and then this huge, drunken man was on top of me.
When HIV arrived, in 1986, it had been battering other countries for five years, and its dynamics were well known. But instead of mobilizing to contain the virus, public officials blithely asserted that India’s “moral character” and conservative sexual mores would keep it from spreading. The virus quickly defied that prediction, racing through red-light districts, infecting both sex workers and their clients. So the police started rounding up sex workers for mandatory blood tests, sometimes jailing the infected instead of promoting safer sex.
Almost everyone with HIV or AIDS who appears on Chinese television has his or her face and voice obscured electronically. Those who appear in newspaper photographs usually have a thick black stripe covering their eyes. Many Chinese officials and journalists say this is done to protect people with HIV from further discrimination. “Ideally, people with HIV would be able to stand up and face the camera without fear,” said Fu Yan, a senior nurse at the AIDS clinic at Beijing’s Youan Hospital. “But the pressure from society is too much.