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Writers give voice to India's AIDS population AIDS Sutra: Untold Stories from India

By Reuters reporter

Last updated 10/22/2008 11:39:43 AM

AIDS Sutra Untold Stories from India

What better way to give a voice to the 2.7 million people in India living with HIV/AIDS than to enlist the country's top authors to tell their stories?

Whether it is Salman Rushdie writing about the transgender community of Mumbai, Kiran Desai describing the plight of sex workers in Andhra Pradesh or any of the other 14 writers who contributed to AIDS Sutra: Untold Stories from India, each presents a portrait of the groups affected by the condition.

"Besides giving the epidemic a human face, it is giving leaders a chance to look at groups that are being hit hardest, and why, and how they are being affected," said Negar Akhavi, of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which edited the anthology.

"After two years (of working with the Gates Foundation India AIDS initiative) I came to the conclusion that the biggest challenge to doing HIV work in India was the stigma and apathy around the epidemic."

She told Reuters: "So it really came from the idea that if people could understand more fully who is being affected by the epidemic, and how and why, then it would change the understanding of the Indian epidemic.

"We started with a list of what are all the stories we needed told if you fully want to understand the Indian epidemic because it is so marginalised and it is hidden. What are the issues in the communities you need to be accessing?

"The fun part was really thinking of who could be the authors that could tell these stories in a way that would fit either stylistically or just seemed natural."

Negar added: "Even beyond HIV, I hope that it allows people the opportunity to explore communities or issues that they would otherwise think Oh, I already know this and it doesn't affect me."

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