Helping Hands, a social service organization in India, takes in people who have been rejected by society. This includes the mentally and physically ill, the elderly, orphans, and HIV/AIDS patients. Gowri is both mentally ill and HIV positive, believed to be due to rape.
In India, where sex is taboo and AIDS/HIV carries a heavy stigma, infection rates have grown to epidemic proportions. Major forms of transmission include blood transfusions, men who have sex with men, and intravenous drug users. However, by far, the highest infection rates are due to heterosexual sex.
Second only to Africa, the numbers were predicted to reach 10 million by 2010. Yet, it is still an issue that most of India is not talking about and that most of the world does not know.—Leah Nash
AIDS in India is Portland-based photographer Leah Nash‘s powerful documentation of a country coping with its current AIDS crisis. Nash leads us on an arresting journey that reveals the myriad facets of India’s epidemic—we see the heartbreak of HIV-positive children in an orphanage, the lack of knowledge and treatment due to the still-present stigma, the sobering realities of the disease, and also education efforts moving forward.
Kumar is blind as a result of AIDS complications. He has two children and a wife who abandoned him. He is cared for at Snehadaan, a Christian AIDS Hospice run by Sisters, Fathers and Brothers. Many of the care centers in India are Christian-based facilities that became exclusively AIDS focused when the demand became overwhelming.
Prasad, age 30, was a taxi driver who loved reciting poetry. His younger brother got married in March and so his family sent him to an AIDS hospice so no one would know he was sick. This is where he died.
At CHES orphanage, 60% of the children are HIV positive as well as the workers. In the baby room, cries or laughter are rarely heard. AIDS orphans are a rising concern, and account for approximately 3% of infection rates.
The NGO Helping Hands maintains a special ward for children infected with the disease yet they lack money for medicine or treatment.
At Gilead’s Balm, a Christian based heroin detox center in Manipur, India new patients are chained to prevent escape. The longer their stay, the more links are added to the chain. The program, which lasts two years, is immensely popular with the community and is entirely locally funded. Their motto is “Chaining is changing.”
Raju contracted HIV through needle-sharing and for the last four months has been unable to speak or move. His wife, Assalata, does all his care-giving and says she is, “Not brave enough to test herself.” They have been married for two years.
Shobha and her father wait at Asha Kirana, a HIV clinic. Shobha is 19 and has been married for little over a year. She is seven months pregnant and positive. Her husband, a truck-driver, does not want the child. One month later, Shobha will abort her child, leave her husband and return to her family.
Rubber gloves are laid out to dry, in preparation for another use. Though Africa has by far the worse percentages of AIDS/HIV infection rates, many researchers think that in terms of sheer numbers, India ranks first.
Heroin and needle use is common in NE India which borders Burma and is a major drug route. HIV levels in this area are some of the highest in the country. Many social service organizations have begun needle exchange programs to reduce the spread. Kola will sometimes steal to get the 50 ruppes (aprox. one dollar) he needs to fix.
A strip of “rubber goods” stores in Calcutta. Most people in India are embarrassed to buy condoms and have no knowledge of how to use them.
Many NGO's perform condom demonstrations for truck drivers, a high-risk group for HIV. When the disease first became an issue in India, areas of higher incident rates could be traced along truck routes.