In 1989 USAID had just discovered that the HIVvirus had far-reaching implications for societies. We pitched them a project, which I, as a social psychologist, headed.
How is work on AIDS different?
AIDS breeds in the fractures in society and gets its strength from inequality, women's disempowerment, poverty and illiteracy.
What's the core strength of work on AIDS?
Unlike other diseases, AIDS has found spokespeople and generated a movement. Activists have been able to shape scientific research.
And the major problems?
We're getting word on the first trials of many scientific ventures. And frankly, we're nowhere near finding a solution to the virus.
How important are partnerships in the global South in dealing with this?
Very important. For example Brazil can teach us a lot about rolling out anti-retroviral drugs. But ultimately local activism is the key.
Where is India's position in this venture?
There are some excellent programmes under way, the governments of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have done great work in dealing with, and even rolling back, the crisis.
Is there a role for celebrity activists?
Only as part of a larger strategy.
A study showed that HIV/AIDS cases in India have been overestimated.
It's no good swinging between panic and false complacency. You see, 2.3 million affected rather than 2.6 million is still a huge number.
Could you tell us about the work of ICRW?
We do actionable research on the role of women in development.
Are women in high offices a useful thing?
It's extremely important, as we are learning from India's reservations in panchayats.
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