Last week I was sitting with my friends at T3, killing time with inane conversations, much like our loved and revered MP’s; when suddenly one of my friends started discussing his experience of working with an NGO, which helps AIDS affected children and women. The conversation veered, invariably so, towards that I-don’t –want –to –discuss .It is an attitude of society, on an issue which in effect should be discussed more freely and openly than the on-screen (s) exploits of celebrities like Mallika Shrewat and it is the responsibility of the people in power to take necessary steps for getting AIDS-related messages across to the masses.

And the recent banning of sex-education in schools by certain political factions is not exactly helping the cause. Well in some ways, by banning sex-education, these parties are acknowledging a significant fact: we know enough about sex already! With the highest population in the world, second only to China perhaps, Indians know enough about “night long/ding dong” and cannot be bothered about more education in this respect. Our moral guardians should not be criticized therefore, for being against sex-education.

Jokes apart, this issue is something, which needs to be addressed as fast as possible. It will definitely take time to change the conservative mental construct of many sections of society. But the change has to be initiated at least. And this change has to take place at the grassroots level. Providing sex-education in schools is an effective step in making the adolescent mind aware of the realities of life, before their perceptions are clouded by unnecessary falsities and inaccurate facts. If we can borrow the concept of discotheques and accept pub-culture of the West; why can we not learn something constructive from them for a change?! I am not trying to uphold Western culture in any way because they have their downsides too. Just imagine a 16yearrs old boy going up to his father to say-“Umm Dad, I think ’’m a dad now too!” This is something which my friend witnessed to, when he was in US with his cousin! The point is, we should take the positives instead of the negatives; and such an attitude can only come about if we are more willing to talk about such issues. The concept of safe sex is still alien to many uneducated people and this has to change. Providing condom-vending machines to the public is another important factor in this regard. Sex-education has other important dimensions as well, which includes educating the masses about sexually transmitted diseases or STD’s. Reportedly though, the state of STD clinics is far from what maybe considered ideal. There have been accusations also about misuse of funds intended for STD clinics by some states.

The first case of AIDS had been reported around 1980’s and since then the spread of HIV has been diverse, cutting through all parts of the country in a major way. Better data, statistics and widespread surveys have led officials to believe that more than 2 million people in India live with HIV. Some believe that the rise in HIV cases maybe the result of a similar rise in same-sex relationships. But this perspective merely deflects public attention from the bigger picture; the fact is, that there is also widespread malpractice of reusing injection-needles, which may be infected, in many parts of India. This severely detrimental activity goes on without much scrutiny from officials at the highest level; who dismiss such reasons as “trivial”.

Perhaps the powers that be are believers of the philosophy of Shakespeare’s, lady Macbeth, who famously said: “things without all remedy should be without regard”. They should stop taking this statement too literally as even lady Macbeth realized later in the play, her fallacy and the fact that “things without all remedy” cannot be “without regard”. But she was late to acknowledge this fact and she eventually died. Let us ensure that such fiction never becomes a reality.

– Asad Ali

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