Photography: Amnesty International: Positive Caste
The highest rates of HIV and AIDS in India lie quietly multiplying in west and central India (Maharashtra and Karnataka), south India (Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh), and east India (Manipur and Nagaland). It takes one look at a map to realise that together, these areas cover three-quarters of the entire country.
In 2003, the government supervised NACO (the National AIDS Control Organisation) and declared 4 million confirmed HIV positive cases, but looming in the background was the possibility of another 16 million carrying the disease unaware of their status.
In this mainly rural country, where 70% of the population are farmers, education of basic hygiene and sanitary practices take centre stage as HIV awareness and prevention wait in the background.
The discrimination and stigma attached to HIV positive people is rampant in India. To find out they are positive, one risks being disowned by their family, ostracised by the community, denied medical care, and unemployed. It is easier to live life ignoring the risks, and in many cases passing the disease to others.