Category Archives: India

Boy Dies After Attempting Stunt From TV Show Roadies

Chandan Singh never missed an episode of the show Roadies. On Saturday night the nine-year-old died trying to do a stunt on the show.
The young boy accidentally hung himself after watching the Saturday night episode of Roadies. In the show two female contestants were made to stand on a wooden stool with their hands tied. A rope was placed around their necks as another contestant had three minutes to save them.

NDTV News reports:

“He watched the episode on the third floor of our house along with his friends and tried to imitate the stunt after his friends left. After hearing a loud noise, I rushed to the room and found Chandan hanging from the ceiling fan,” his uncle Bhagat Singh told media persons.

Inspector Jaganath Saroj of Vikas Nagar police station said: “According to his uncle, Bhagat Singh, with whom he used to live in the Vikas Nagar locality, Chandan never missed any episode of the show.”

The boy was pronounced dead at hospital.

1,500 Indian farmers commit suicide

As many as 1,500 farmers in the agricultural state of Chattisgarh in India committed suicide. The shocking number appears to be a result of not being able to pay off local money lenders.
The farmers had been affected by the dropping water levels.

Press Association reports:

(Money-lenders) lure farmers to take money but when the crops fail, they are left with no option other than death,” Organic Farming Association of India spokesman Bharatendu Prakash told The Press Association.

The government in India has recently waived $15 billion in debt but that didn’t factor in for those who had made private arrangements with local lenders. In India, those who are in debt feel they only have one way out: death.

The Daily Times reports:

The agricultural state of Chattisgarh was hit by falling water levels. “The water level has gone down below 250 feet here. It used to be at 40 feet a few years ago,” Shatrughan Sahu, a villager in one of the districts, told Down To Earth magazine. Most of the farmers here are indebted and only God can save the ones who do not have a bore well.”

Over the last 10 years, it’s estimated that 10,000 Indian farmers have ended their own lives.

The drug companies, stigmas and realities of HIV in India

In March 2005 India passed a bill to recognize and protect global patents in order to join the World Trade Organization.

“It is a sad irony that India is one of the biggest producers of the drugs that have transformed the lives of people with AIDS in wealthy countries. But for millions of Indians, access to these medicines is a distant dream” Joanne Csete, Director of the HIV/AIDS programme at Human Rights Watch.

The bill was an effort so that India could be able to provide generic drugs to the world. India’s generic drug trade is able to keep prices at a low level and under what is being charged by multinational pharmaceutical companies.

The media covered this bill with a business angle and failed for the most part to delve into the potentially devastating impact of the new rule on vulnerable populations.

Copyright Srinivas Kuruganti, posted with permission

Journalist Sandeep Junnarkar and photographer Srinivas Kuruganti set out to document the lives of families that struggle to buy ARV (anti-retroviral) drugs in order to keep a family member healthy. They used audio recorders, photographs and video to show the world the challenges of AIDS patients deal with in India. These people are stigmatized and often unable to make enough money to buy the lifesaving drugs that their own country mass produces. The Lives in Focus Project Inc. is a non-profit media company that represents the voices of the forgotten. The company is based out of New York.

As India entered the World Trade Organization their own people with HIV were to become the victims. Because of product patents the drug companies in India those living with the disease will be the most affected.

Copyright Srinivas Kuruganti, posted with permission
This project looks at the effect of industrial pollution on the health of local communities in the Patancheru district of Andhra Pradesh and Ankleshwar, Gujarat where over 3000 chemical, pharmaceutical and dye factories release an alarming level of toxic waste into air, ground water and agricultural land.

Alternate Law Forum reports that the Patent (3rd Amendment) Bill will affect those who need ARV the most.

The fact is that while people who suffer from HIV AIDS are those who will be most directly affected by the amendment, the larger issue is the coming into place of a regime of product patents which signals a radical shift in the ability of pharmaceutical companies to reverse engineer drugs and make them available at lower prices. This is a much larger issue that cuts across all diseases and will become as much of a problem for other ailments as it is for HIV AIDS.

As India becomes known at the ‘pharmacy of the developing world’ it has worked laws to make it to their advantage.

Biz reports:

“In many ways, India’s patent law is very progressive,” commented Jonathan Berger, a senior researcher at the AIDS Law Project, an organisation that fights for the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa. “It is the only country that has taken advantage of flexibilities in TRIPS; the real question is, why haven’t other countries done the same?”

In India there are presently about 6 million people dealing with HIV. Most of those living with HIV reside in rural areas.

With the huge pharmaceutical industry in India it would make sense that the citizens would have the best and latest medicines. That is not always the case however.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated in 2003 that nearly seven percent of AIDS patients in India acquired the virus through a blood transfusion. Those patients are often turned away from health care.

WHO has found that unpaid donors are more likely than paid donors to provide safe and sustainable blood supply because they are less likely to lie about their health status and are also more likely to keep themselves healthy.

In India HIV is associated with behaviors such as homosexuality, drug addiction, prostitution or promiscuity, behaviours that often result in shunning.

Copyright Srinivas Kuruganti, posted with permission
High risk behaviors can lead to HIV.

A study by the International Center for Research on Women found that the stigmatization that Indians face is part of the problem.

As Kangla Online reports:

“The epidemic of fear, stigmatization and discrimination has undermined the ability of individuals, families and societies to protect themselves and provide support and reassurance to those affected. This hinders, in no small way, efforts at stemming the epidemic. It complicates decisions about testing, disclosure of status, and ability to negotiate prevention behaviors, including use of family planning services.”

Dola Mohapatra, Asia Regional Director for Christian Children’s Fund, talked with Everyday Christian’s Peter Elliot about the challenges India faces with HIV/AIDS.

Mohapatra stated that India is a time bomb when it comes to HIV and could in fact quickly overtake Africa’s patient counts in the future. In the states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka the virus is at a pandemic stage.

The most difficult problem in India is health care access, both in diagnosing and in then treating patients with the proper ARV drugs.

While there are local pharmaceutical companies in India with more reasonably priced medications than the United States they are not available nationwide. In some areas the government has taken the lead and provides those who are sick with HIV free medication.

India as a nation is trying to combat the stigmas that hit those with HIV. They are now running ads on television to say that it’s safe to touch something who has the virus and to provide assistance to them.

Mohapatha said, “All CCF projects are involved in the “Linked Worker Scheme,” (LWS) where we train community level workers to provide counseling, care and support to AIDS-affected families and link them with health services. With the help of local governments and partners we provide ARV drugs to families and work with local youth groups in prevention efforts for contracting HIV/AIDS.”

India faces HIV problems in every aspect, including their military. The first HIV-positive Assam Rifles soldier was detected in 1992. By 2005 32 soldiers had died of AIDS and another 180 were in serious condition from the virus.

Health reports:

“The time has come to wake up with HIV infection among our troops assuming serious dimensions. Now we find more soldiers dying to HIV- AIDS than to bullets fired by militants,” Lieutenant General Bhopinder Singh, Director General of Assam Rifles, said in Meghalaya state capital Shillong on Friday.

“We have a challenge at hand and we need to tackle it sensitively,” he told AFP at the force headquarters.

Copyright Srinivas Kuruganti, posted with permission

As India struggles to cope with the HIV/AIDS epidemic their health care still has issues with the stigmas that comes from the disease.

Copyright Srinivas Kuruganti, posted with permission
HIV patient in India

The PGI is still turning people away in India.

Times of India reports:

After testing positive at a hospital in Patiala, the couple was shown the way to PGI for hope. “When we came here, doctors turned us away saying that our nearest anti-retroviral therapy centre was in Patiala’s Rajindra Medical College and, therefore, we should go there,” said a disheartened Sukhpal Singh, 38.

Vineeta Gupta, the director of State AIDS Control Organisation discussed with Times of India the issue.

Sensing the gravity of the issue, the director added, “Patients can forward their complaints to our grievance cell that was formed recently to address such issues and more.” On the defensive, PGI denied the allegations. “The patients have been asked to attend OPD for treatment and their tests will follow,” said Manju Wadwalkar, PGI’s official spokesperson. Whether or not any damage control follows remains to be seen at the institute that caters to patients from Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.

Copyright Srinivas Kuruganti, posted with permission

That incident though is in violation of the nation’s policy. The Supreme Court panel consisting of f Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, as well as Justices Ashok Bhan and P. Sathasivam has ruled that all of India’s states must treat people with HIV/AIDS “in a professional manner, treating them always with dignity and care” and with “no discrimination of stigma whatsoever.” Medical care is not to be denied to those dealing with the virus.

Copyright Srinivas Kuruganti, posted with permission
HIV in India

All photography was provided by Srinivas Kuruganti. His work highlights those in India facing life with HIV/AIDS. He should be commended for bringing a face to the plight. I would also like to thank journalist Sandeep Junnarkar for his work on the photo project with Mr. Kuruganti. Thank you.