[Outlook, August 21, 2000]
The Doomsday Book
The real story of aids in India and why you should care
SEX, LIES AND AIDS
by Siddharth Dube
Rs 285, Pages: 156
Siddharth Dube in Sex, Lies and aids promises us 'a romp through sex in today's India, a serious journey towards understanding aids and a Kama Sutra for the age of aids'.
He keeps some of his promises.
In this simply written and short book, the mechanics of HIV transmission and prevention, the stages of infection and illness, and the progression to aids are clearly explained. Dube, author of the highly acclaimed Words Like Freedom, draws a clear map of the HIV/AIDS scenario in India, presents comparisons with and conclusions from data in India and across the world, and examines the reasons for the spread of the epidemic in India. There are statistics on the growth of the epidemic in India over the last 14 years. Thankfully, mind-boggling figures are presented in a non-boggling way; readers will not have to painstakingly track numerals that crawl along sentences.
Drawing lessons from Africa and without degenerating into a jeremiad, Dube, in chillingly simple terms, portrays the horrors that will befall us if we don't act soon. That is the main message of the book-Act Now. The number of Indians infected with HIV is growing so rapidly as to double every 18 to 24 months. Soon, in India as in Uganda, every one of us will have lost someone to aids-a partner, sibling, friend, parent, child...
The pain, anger, anguish, resignation, fears and hopes of 12 people living with HIV/aids comes through clearly as they speak of the complexities of their lives. Dube dispels common myths, talks about discrimination and human rights violations, and strongly advocates a response based on humanity. There's also an exhaustive bibliography for the lay reader and a list of organisations that provide services. The annexe, Kama Sutra for the age of aids, describes safer sex and gives helpful tips making it easier to practise these techniques. However, this section occupies a bare seven pages in the annexe. You promised a 'sexy book', Siddharth, what happened? The other disappointment is the cursory examination of the systemic social factors that make Indians vulnerable to contracting HIV.
By far the largest part of the book is an indictment of the Indian government whose failure to tackle the epidemic is clearly outlined. The medical community, the judiciary, the police, and the moral brigade are not spared either. Mario Miranda's tongue-in-cheek illustrations accurately depict the hypocrisy endemic in the government and across society. The form of the Hon'ble Minister Bundaldass is a sardonic comment on the regressive, ill-informed political response to aids.
The way forward is clearly outlined: greater political commitment, sex education, better healthcare, effective std treatment services, and tackling aids in a health, development and rights framework.
One hopes that after the recently-concluded aids Conference in Durban, South Africa, where all the governments of the world were urged to display stronger political commitment to dealing with HIV/aids, ours will pay heed to the writing on the wall. It says, Act Now.
"A lucid, compelling and indefatigably researched attempt to stem the tide of denial, prejudice, ineptitude and bigotry that characterize Indian attitudes and policies on AIDS." THE TELEGRAPH
"Impassioned and lucid analysis. This slim and clearly written volume should be mandatory reading for government officials, health workers and teachers throughout India." FAR EASTERN ECONOMIC REVIEW
"The real story of AIDS in India and why you should care. In chillingly simple terms portrays the horrors that will befall us if we don’t act soon." OUTLOOK
“A deeply disturbing book…(written) with language and passion that leave you wrung out.” FRONTLINE
"Combines a sense of personal outrage, individual insights, meticulous research and documentation, and case histories of real ordinary citizens. The reports of the sexual biographies of a variety of ordinary citizens…invest this book with greater value than any dozen treatises on AIDS." REDIFF.COM
“Riveting.” Suneetha Kadiyala and Tony Barnett, Economic and Political Weekly
"A must-read for every Indian. Anyone worried about their own health or that of the nation simply cannot afford to give it a miss. It lays to rest too many myths for that." The Statesman
"Want to know about AIDS but didn't know whom to ask? The answer: Sex, Lies and AIDS." The Week
"Congratulations for writing this magnificent book. I thank you on behalf of INP+ and all people living with HIV in India for presenting the correct scenario on AIDS in India."
Ashok Pillai, Indian Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS (INP+)