Indian Traditions Impeding HIV/AIDS Prevention

Subservient Status Makes Women Vulnerable to Exposure

A trucker and his wife at an HIV clinic in the Indian town of Namakkal.

A trucker and his wife at an HIV clinic in the Indian town of Namakkal. Officials worry that migrant workers like truckers are carrying the disease from urban centers into rural areas. Fred de Sam Lazaro hide caption

itoggle caption Fred de Sam Lazaro
A sex worker looks out onto Bombay's Falkland Road.

A sex worker looks out onto Bombay's Falkland Road. Brenda Wilson, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Brenda Wilson, NPR

With the international AIDS conference underway in Thailand, the Indian government has released its latest figures on AIDS. About 5 million people in the country are infected with HIV; the numbers indicate the epidemic is continuing to grow but at a slower rate.

Some analysts, however, suspect that the impact of the epidemic is far greater, and twice as many are infected. They say the vast majority are unaware they have the disease. More men are infected than women, but that is rapidly changing. As NPR's Brenda Wilson reports, health officials fear that the powerless status of women makes them vulnerable to the virus.

In Mumbai, women are being sold into sex slavery, and rural women contract HIV when their husbands return after months as migrant workers. Wilson travels to India to talk with women about how cultural attitudes have put them at great risk for the disease.

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