Saturday, February 25, 2012

HIV-Hunger Cycle: Give them enough food to prevent AIDS

By Sugata M

‘Do you like to stop AIDS? Give them enough and enough food’

Let me tell you a story. This is a story of a woman who got HIV from her husband.

There are so many stories of poor women who were infected by the husband. What is sospecial about it?

From that aspect my story will sound a pretty ordinary one. But to me it is not onlyshocking but can give us a hard lesson of life.

Let’sgo into the story.

“Sandhya (name changed) was in her early thirties, living with her husband and twochildren in one of the medium sized cities in South India.Her husband was working in private sector and having a good income. They had a happy life.

Butthings were not the same. Sandhya’s husband suddenly fell ill and the ailments,in course of time got turned into a chronic one. The man who had a robust health previously underwent very rapid loss of weight, swollen glands in the body and not easily curable fever and loose motion. The physician finally got the HIV test done which came to be reactive.

Unfortunatelyhe died irrespective of attempts from the doctors and Sandhya with her two kidswere forced to shift to her in-laws house.

In the mean time Sandhya also had gone through HIV testing and found to be positive. And the things got worse. Her in-laws threw her and her two smallkids out of the house. They thought Sandhya is woman of immoral character andactually passed the virus to her husband to cause his premature death.

Sandhyawas literally came into the roads. She did neither find support from her parents,relatives nor find a job. Nobody likes to put a HIv infected into the job.

When hunger became intolerable with the two small innocent children to feed with Sandhya had taken the boldest decision of her life. She became a prostitute.”

So the crux of the story is, if you are hungry, your off springs are hungry but at  the same time denied all sources of food what best you can do to survive? Forget the so called ‘morality’ of life and jump into anything that can generate source of living for the survival.

I told the story to one of my good friends who is a strong feminist. Her reaction was, “I would have definitely committed suicide with my children before gettingmyself into such dehumanizing act.” I was simply surprised the way she responded.

But in reality how many hungry people kill themselves when humiliation goes beyond tolerance? Rather, most of them put all their attempts together to survive against all odds. After all, living is loving.

Sandhya did not do anything different. She tried to provide food to her children’s hungry mouth and dreamt of better future for them. Please don’t look at Sandhya’s story through the lens of morality.

My issue is not related to morality or sex work. It is insecurity of food that makes people vulnerable to HIV. Sandhya is one of such vulnerable women but throughout the globe there are millions of people who do not have enough food for them or their children. AIDS is constantly knocking at their doors.

Experts say there is enough food in the world to feed everyone. But where has all those food gone?

Morethan 800 million people on earth know what is like to go to bed hungry. Around 200 million children under 5 yrs are underweight only because there is notenough food for them. One child dies every five seconds from hunger and relatedcause. 35% of the total population is malnourished in several countries locatedin East, Central and Southern Africa. In India which produces enough food for its people there are still incidences of death from hunger, selling of children out of sheer poverty and food insecurity.

If you analyze carefully whole of the food insecurity business you will find ademoralizing picture existing all corners of the globe.

Food insecurity, most of the time is man made and inevitably leads to disruption of human integrity thus generating numerous marginalized, hard-to-reach populationallover the world, left with hunger and humiliation. Never-ending war of DR Congo, political violence of Haiti, socio-political instability in Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, civil conflict and illegal drug trade of Colombia, war that devastated health system of Ivory coast, restless Chechnya, war that tore apart Iraq and Afghanistan, power game and proxy war by the ‘World Powers’ – the listis long but number of people denied access to food through these unending pathological processes is countless. The human community is further fragmented by social and domestic violence, terrorism, communalism, racism, castism, gender inequity and troubled childhood thus enhancing pace of hunger. Hunger is the natural triggering mechanism of dehumanizing events like human trafficking, prostitution, crime, drugs, child labor and migration pushing millions ofhopeless people into vacuum of AIDS. On the other hand, those already infectedby HIV are constantly refrained from producing and utilizing food, being victimized by disability, denial and discrimination. And the cycle goes on incessantly to make the virus stronger and deadlier.

This is Hunger-HIV cycle gradually taking shape of ultimate destroyer and silently preparing ground to make final assault in the form of AIDS. No other disease has taken so much of resources, attention and concern because AIDS has jolted the root of humanity and exposed the darker side of human civilization. Hungry,vulnerable people also remain miles away from critical information vital for living. HIV can be easily renamed as ‘Hunger and Ignorance led Vulnerability’.

Sandhya’story is a perfect example of Hunger-HIV cycle.

Breaking Hunger-HIV cycle is probably the toughest challenge in front of us. I strongly believe that it is neither condom, ARV drugs, microbicide nor vaccine butuninterrupted supply of food with sufficient quantity to the needy and hungrypeople of the world that can really make the true difference in reversing the pandemic of AIDS and many other communicable diseases.

Are our powerful global leaders sufficiently prepared and equipped to bring necessary changes in the food production, distribution and utilization processes and patterns? It needs concrete political commitment atinternational, national, state, district and sub district levels.

When billions of dollars are being spent for space research, weapon technology, nuclear plants and sophisticated biological inventions countless hopeless people are dying simply because of lack of accessibility, availability andaffordability to food – the basic vital source of human existence. Do our respected leaders feel the contrast?

The world has basically two groups of people: One who earns more and the other who earns less or does not earn. The first groups sometimes make money in trillions and billions. The second group, many a times can not even earn in terms of at wo digit number. Can the leaders of the world make a balance between the two absolutely polarized money earning patterns?

Iam not politician. I am not a public leader. I am just a physician who is practicing public health and epidemiology. Whatever I have documented so far is my deliberation from the perspective of public health and, over and above from the point of humanity.

(Published in Concern Worldwide 2009 Writing Competition)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Sugata,

Read your article. Sandhya's story really touches the heart apart from causing shock at the behaviour of her own parents, in-laws to throw her out. This isn't one of a case, i am sure there are similar cases happening in other parts of India as well.

I wish our global leaders come up with some sound solutions to eradicate the hunger problem that afflicts the poor section of the society.