HIV prevention needs more tools such as microbicides

Vaginal and anal sex continue to put millions of people at risk those who are unable to use or negotiate the use of existing HIV prevention options. Microbicides although currently under research, are being seen as an important new HIV prevention tool that will expand the range of prevention options for men and women. Rectal and vaginal microbicides are antimicrobial agents formulated as gels, creams, films, or suppositories for application to the vagina or rectum for the prevention of HIV transmission, and/or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Microbicides have various modes of action like killing/ inactivating the pathogen by disrupting the viral envelope; strengthening the vagina's defence system and maintaining acidic pH; strengthening the rectum's defence system, creating a physical barrier between the pathogen and target; preventing infection spread to other cells by blocking viral replication within cells. 

Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision Protects Against HIV

As world's largest AIDS conference (XIX International AIDS Conference) on the theme of 'turning the tide together' is about to open in US next month, CNS decided to share one of its interviews with noted expert on voluntary medical male circumcision and its role in HIV prevention. Voluntary medical male circumcision protects against HIV. "There are over 40 observational studies among heterosexual men, which show that circumcised men have about a 60% reduced risk of HIV compared to uncircumcised men. There were then three randomised controlled trials conducted in Sub Saharan Africa that showed circumcised men were at 60% less risk of HIV than uncircumcised men. All these three trials were stopped by independent Data Safety Monitoring Boards as the effect was so strong and it was thought unethical to not offer circumcision to men in the control arm" said Dr Helen Weiss, Reader in Epidemiology and International Health, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). Dr Weiss works mainly on HIV and biomedical behavioural prevention strategies focussing mainly on sub-Saharan Africa and spoke to CNS at AIDS Vaccine 2011.

Protesting the life sentence of Seema Azad

Members of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Bangalore and several other human rights organisations and individuals in the city gathered on Saturday, 16th June 2012 in front of Town Hall, Bangalore to express their outrage at the unjust sentencing of Seema Azad and her husband Vishwavijay Kamal by a sessions court in Allahabad, to life imprisonment and 10 years in jail, respectively. The ruling  passed on 8th June 2012 was based on fabricated charges of 'waging war against the state', 'criminal conspiracy' and various sections of the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act [UAPA].

Please Vote For Me….I Am So And So’s Wife!

Sounds funny, does it? But these plaintive cries (nay wails) are reverberating in every nook and corner of Lucknow these days, whose citizens are going to elect their mayor and 110 corporators on June 23, 2012. As per news paper reports, the city is divided into six zones and 110 wards. 10% (11) of these wards are reserved for scheduled castes (SC). Of this, 4 are reserved for women belonging to SC category. Similarly, out of the 22 wards of the city reserved for other backward castes (OBCs), in 8 of them only female OBC candidates can contest the local bodies' election. Another 25 wards are reserved solely for women candidates to test their political acumen. Thus, in effect, a total of 37 seats are reserved for women. 

The Noose Tightens Around The Private TB Sector In India

Close to the heels of making tuberculosis a notifiable disease, the Government of India has now banned the import, sale, manufacture and use of serodiagnostic/serological test kits for diagnosis of  tuberculosis (also known as blood test or antibody test for TB). A notification (no.X-11014/13/2011-DFQC) dated 7.6.2012, issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, prohibits with immediate effect the manufacture for sale, distribution, import and use of these serodiagnostic test kits because ‘the government is satisfied that it is necessary and expedient to prohibit  the use of these test kits  for diagnosis of TB in public interest as they are giving inconsistent and imprecise results leading to wrong diagnosis and their use is likely to involve risk to human beings and whereas safer alternatives are available.’ Laudable sentiments indeed!

Hasty Commissioning of Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant is Against People's Interest

Indo-US Nuclear Deal was the first attempt by the Indian government to open up its nuclear establishment to the outside world. It was only after approval of International Atomic Energy Agency that India was officially allowed to do business with the Nuclear Suppliers Group countries in nuclear materials and technology. But the agreement to set up a nuclear power plant in Kudankulam with Russia predates Indo-US Nuclear Deal and hence was done outside the internationally accepted non-proliferation regime in an undemocratic manner. Essentially Russia, secretly and without any fuss, did what the US took one and a half years and much trouble to convince its Congress to do.

'Phooti Kismat Nalayak Zindagi' - A Doomed Fate; A Useless Life!

The National Hijra Habba (festival) held recently in Delhi brought out in the open the deep anguish and silent suffering of the transgender/hijra /kinnar population across the country. Although this issue is centuries old, yet the tolerance level of common people towards this community is very low. It is just one of the many paradoxes of our complex Indian culture that while on one hand it is considered auspicious to have the hijras bless our newborns and newlyweds for fertility, they are otherwise shunned and looked down upon by society.

A toilet for a toilet

A strong criticism of the irrational expenditure of Rs 35 lakhs on the renovation of Planning Commission toilets has been a blessing in disguise and done wonders for sanitation problem in India. A whole lot of progressive announcements in the sanitation sector have been made as a saving grace for the government, which was unable to justify the unnecessary spending on beautification of Planning Commission toilets while crying hoarse of austerity measures.

A Financial Boost For The Search Of New TB Vaccines

In a new fillip to the much needed TB Vaccine research, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given a grant of 3 million dollars to TuBerculosis Vaccine Initiative (TBVI), a non-profit organisation that supports the development of new vaccines against tuberculosis. The award spread over 3 years will help TBVI to support the development of several TB vaccine candidates and contribute to the fight against this deadly disease.

Right to Reject could have affected 'unopposed' elections

There is no candidate fielded by any major political party against Dimple Yadav, Samajwadi Party's candidate for Kannauj Lok Sabha seat. Dimple Yadav is also the daughter-in-law of Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and Kannauj is undoubtedly a party stronghold. There are only two candidates as per newspaper reports against her (independent candidate Sanju Katiyar and Dashrath Shankhwar of Sanyukt Samajwadi Dal) and if these candidates withdraw their nominations before 9th June, then Dimple Yadav will walk into Lok Sabha unopposed. Without getting into the debate of 'samajwaad' vs 'parivarwaad', is it really fair in democracy for a candidate to get elected 'unopposed' because how will common people figure out whether she is a unanimous choice of people (of Kannauj in this instance) or behind the scene efforts were made to ensure no one fights election against her? If our Indian Constitution had taken right to vote and right to reject at par, then this power would rest with the voter and election outcomes could be different.

Engage affected communities as equal partners to wipe out TB

In the last week of March, 2012, I received an email from a stranger living in Chandigarh, requesting for counseling as his 34 years old wife was suffering from TB. This is his tale of woes about the problems faced by her and the family who are living in a metro city of India. 

How Healthy Are The healthcare Settings for Transgender or Hijra people?

The transgender, 'hijra' or 'kinnar' community is visible as usually its members can be spotted easily by way of their attire and mannerisms. However they are invisible in the sense that society shuns them and does not even want to acknowledge their existence. They face problems in all spheres of life. But, the impediments they face in accessing quality healthcare services at times, cause irreparable physical and mental damage to them and may even be life threatening.

AIDS 2012: What should change in HIV programme to turn the tide of the AIDS pandemic?

In the lead up to the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), Citizen News Service (CNS) is facilitating an online consultation and conducting key informant interviews on HIV-related issues. This is an opportunity for all those affected by HIV to have their say in lead up to the AIDS 2012. The theme of  XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) is “TURNING THE TIDE TOGETHER”.

The Third Gender Does Not Deserve A Third Grade Treatment

Raveena Bariha, the fire brand graduate tribal hijra activist from Chattisgarh (a relatively backward state of India) is lovingly called the chhota bomb and chhota rocket.  At the recently concluded National Hijra Habba Consultation and Cultural Event, which was organized by Pehchān project, in association with India HIV/AIDS Alliance in Delhi, her diminutive frame dressed in a cotton salwar kurta without any jewellery stood apart from the other ornately dressed participants of her community. Raveena spoke to CNS about the hopes and aspirations, the trials and tribulations of the transgender and hijra/kinnar community.  

Justice Rajindar Sachar will make a Perfect President

[हिंदी] Different political parties have been forwarding their choices for the President's post. In the beginning it appeared that Mulayam Singh will support the candidature of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. This belief was strengthened when he supported Sharad Pawar's proposal that the President should be a apolitical person. However, now Mulayam Singh has retracted from his position. On the other hand Lalu Yadav proposed Vice-President Hamid Ansari's name for the post. Lalu is so close to the Congress that it appeared that he was essentially voicing Congress's choice. The names of West Bengal 's former Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, A.K. Antony, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Meira Kumar and even Dr. Manmohan Singh has since done the rounds. There seems to be a consensus emerging around Pranab Mukherjee's name. For most political parties whether belonging to UPA or NDA, he is the most acceptable for President's post.

Landmark meet on sexual minorities: National Hijra Habba Consultation

Pehchān, in association with India HIV/AIDS Alliance,  recently organized a  national consultation, aptly called Hijra Habba (Habba is a Kannada word meaning festival), in Delhi to draw attention to the current challenges facing the transgender (TG) and hijra communities of India and to develop an action plan to address the problems affecting them. It was indeed a festival where dressed in stunningly beautiful attires and glittering jewelry, hijra and transgender community members from across India voiced their fears, doubts and misgivings in front of senior officials from the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), UNDP, and DFID in an atmosphere marked with solemn gaiety. They shared their trials and tribulations and discussed ways and means to protect their very existence and dignity in society. Their brightly lit eyes, their unwavering voices, and the glow of steely determination on their faces clearly reflected their sombre resolve to put an end to the indignities they had been facing for centuries.