Understanding HIV and Development: An analysis from Bellary District in Karnataka, India

31 Dec 2008


My notion of democracy is that under it the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest.”- Mahatma Gandhi Bellary, one of 27 districts in Karnataka, has the dubious distinction of having more helicopters than any other district in the State and many are owned by homegrown millionaires. Alongside prosperity for some, there are stark inequalities for others. Bellary is the third richest district in Karnataka and yet it also ranks third in the incidence of poverty. Ironically, still the Devadasi practice continues in Bellary1. The modern co-exists with the ancient and all do not have the same opportunities.

Where basic human “opportunities” or capabilities like longevity, educational attainment and a decent standard of living are grossly inadequate, HIV has the potential of taking the form of an epidemic. At the same time, HIV and AIDS is also the single most important factor for reversing human development. For the first time in India, a report highlights gaps in human development and analyses how they might be linked to shortcomings in HIV interventions. It finds that three key factors may have altered the course of the epidemic in Bellary: unequal and unprecedented economic growth, poor governance, and inadequacy of HIV interventions.

Bellary is among the top four districts with highest HIV incidence in Karnataka. With an estimated 22,000 HIV infections and 1.1 percent HIV prevalence among the general population, Bellary has become the focus of most of the recent discussions on HIV and AIDS in the state. It was also identified as one of the priority districts requiring intervention, and was the first in the country where the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) district interventions related to HIV and AIDS were rolled out. This was part of the joint United Nations project “Coordinated HIV/AIDS Response through Capacity Building and Awareness” (CHARCA).

However, CHARCA and other similar interventions have not had a significant impact since recent surveillance statistics indicate an increase in HIV prevalence among those visiting ante-natal care (ANC) and sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinics. The report highlights the factors that might have influenced this situation and targets development agencies and policy makers to help them better understand the links between development and the HIV and AIDS situation in the district. This will eventually help develop effective policies to prevent, control and mitigate HIV. Executive Summary

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