One of the challenges that we as NGOs, Civil society Network are facing in tackling the HIV epidemic in our State as well as the whole country is STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION.
27/08/2018, it was really shocking for me to read the local dailies. According to Bah H. S. Shylla, esteemed CEM of KHADC, his proposed amendment to Khasi Social Custom of Lineage Act 1997 preventing marriages between Khasi women and Non Khasi Men by stripping Khasi women of their Khasi status was:
The Khasi Paper Rupang headlined the news as:
And Mawphor reported it as
Never in a million years would I have dreamt of such a discriminatory and stigmatising statement from a public leader I would have been ok if it was anybody but a person with vast knowledge on every subject matter could say something like that and that too in the Media was shocking and disheartening.
Bah HS Shylla still doesn’t know what is Stigmatising & Discrimination (or maybe he does). To stigmatise or discriminate is to see someone or a group of people as inferior because of their status, an attribute or Characteristic, biased or unfair Judgement or treatment of a person or groups on the basis of prejudice
Bah Shylla, stigma and discrimination is not O.K; it is a breach not only of various Human Rights Laws but also a violation of the Law of Mankind and above all the Law of God
So Bah Shylla, why are you Stigmatizing & Discriminating?
Is it because of your lack of knowledge on HIV (routes of transmission, care and treatment)?
Bah Shylla, your statement to the media clearly shows that you lacked the basic info on the subject matter. As per the media you called HIV, “Jingpang Kynsha/Dreaded Disease”. First of all, HIV is not a jingpang but a virus that destroys the immune system of a human body. So please educate yourself before giving out false and misleading information to the masses.
Did you inform yourself of science and facts of HIV before making the statement?
Dear Bah Shylla if you had read up a bit before making a public statement, you would have known that HIV is no longer Jingpang Kynsha because it is a manageable infection. As a Person Living with HIV (PLHIV) I can tell you that with medications and support I get from our service providers such as Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) and Psycho social support my HIV viral load is below 20, which means that I already have viral suppression and that the chances of other people getting infected from me is very slim, almost NIL.
How did you manage to link the infection with Moral Behaviors and Personal Irresponsibility?
This irresponsible act of yours would only lead to magnification of the problem. According to you and I quote:
“ka lynti rung jong katei ka klam kadei naka jingshong kha khleh bad ki trok draibar, ki draibar bos jong ki bar jylla bad nongbylla bar jylla”
First of all, do you have any data/statistics to back your statement or because he had to say just something? Wise men talk because they have something to say. Fools do so because they have to say just something.
How did you think only Shongkha Khleh / Mixed Marriage & Sex are the sources of HIV?
There are Four routes for HIV transmission and if you could only think of Shongkha Khleh or sex then you seriously need some help. I would say only a PERVERT would give such kind of comment to link an infection with moral behaviour or Personal irresponsibility. I wouldn’t be surprised if you stated Diabetes kadei ka jingpang kynsha because to an extent and from what I have learnt Diabetes is also tied to Personal Irresponsibility.
Look at Mizoram the HIV epidemic is there not because of Bar jylla or Truck Draibar or inter-community marriages and in the South Indian States not because of just Addiction or shongkha khleh. You cannot generalize an epidemic because you wanted to pull out some political stunt for mass support. It is grossly irresponsible.
So why do you want to S&D, Bah Shylla?
Because we associate HIV with certain Communities’ behaviours and characteristics and dear Bah Shylla you clearly associated HIV with “Bar Jylla” and Drug Addicts.
Do you even know how many people are HIV positive in our State?
Do you even know how many are “bar jylla” and “drug addicts” from the 3400 + PLHIV in Meghalaya?
Dear Bah Shylla, most of the People Living with HIV in Meghalaya are not “Bar jylla” or “Drug Addicts”. They are People from Khynriam, Pnar, Bhoi and War Community with no history of association with Bar jylla or Truck Draibar or even a drug addict.
You will be amazed at the statistics if I give it to you. From the 3400+ HIV+ in state, only approx. 220 are from the High-Risk Groups (Injecting Drug Users, Female Sex Workers and Men Having Sex with Men combined) and out of these 220 only about 50 People are from the Drug using community or IDU).
We also have 168 Children living with HIV. I don’t know what definition you will give them? So if you can’t be Kind, please be Quiet.
Frankly, I don’t see how the Amendment to Lineage ACT is going to help mitigate the HIV ‘epidemic’ in our state since clearly HIV infection is not because of Shongkha Khleh and Drug addiction?
I beg of you to not generalize the epidemic because it will only bring confusion and chaos.
NACO (National AIDS Control Organisation) with MACS (Meghalaya AIDS Control Society) already have intervention programs for the HRGs in place and they are doing a great job in tackling the spread of HIV. What I fear is that with such a big statement comes fatal consequences, these marginalized communities will go into hiding and will not avail the existing services and make the matter worse.
Over the last three decades, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (NACO) Govt of India had been pumping funds in our state to help in tackling the HIV epidemic. On a daily basis, we advocate for better infrastructures and services, Rehabilitation center, social reintegration programs, welfare schemes for PLHIV and other marginalized group but till date, the support from the State Govt has been very minimal.
Respected Bah HS Shylla, we look at our future with uncertainty, I wonder if NACO doesn’t give us our Medications will the State or the KHADC provide us with medication.
We have come a long way in our fight against HIV it has taken us years and years to educated people on such issues and to challenge Stigma and Discrimination. So don’t go to the media and say thing that will have an adverse impact on the hard work that people have done.
The parliament passed the historic Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017 on 11th April. The bill was passed in Rajya Sabha on 21st March 2017 and prohibits discrimination against people living with HIV (PLHIVs).
Section 4 of the Act says
Do you know that by making such a thoughtless statement inciting hatred, you are breaking the law? And as section 37 of the Act says, you are liable to be prosecuted:
So Bah Shylla, instead of inciting prejudice and hatred, you would be appreciated if you could talk and develop policies and guidelines that will help the People of the state rather than by playing God and judging everyone.
Barry Leslie Kharmalki is Field mentor and consultant of Family Health International – Harm Reduction Project by NACO for Injecting Drug Users and other Marginalised Group in Meghalaya. Also living with HIV – DIAGNOSED in 2009. HIV activist and treasurer of the Meghalaya State Network of Positive People.