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Aids Sutra

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Aids Sutra: Untold Stories from India,  Prashant PanjiarI suspect that many people think that a ‘sutra’ is a smutty book due to the only one they’ve ever heard of being the ancient guide to sex known as the Kama Sutra. That’s not the case. Sutra is a Sanskrit word which means a wise saying or aphorism or a collection of such things. In the case of the two sutras I’ve read – Gita Mehta’s River Sutra and the book I’m reviewing here, AIDS Sutra – the term is used more broadly to mean a collection of short essays or stories. The closest suggestion I could give for the word would be ‘Anthology’.

AIDS Sutra was published in 2008 and was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and they open the book with an introduction and a ‘thank you’ to the writers whose work follows. In the introductory chapter, written by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, we learn that nobody’s too sure exactly how many cases of AIDS and HIV there are in India but best estimates put the figure at something like 3 million – just imagine 3 million people living under the shadow of a disease which could be treated and controlled if they lived in a country with greater affluence and access to Anti-Retroviral drugs and without the societal constraints that prevent many sufferers from seeking treatment.

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