High Fidelity Transmission: The ABCs of the Politics of AIDS
by Rajesh Talwar
Reviewed by John Francis Leonard
India, which actually has a low percentage of its population living with HIV/AIDS, is third in the world for actual cases of HIV/AIDS due to the sheer number of its people. One of the populations with the highest percentage of cases is that of the Indian sex workers, who transmit the virus to their male clients who in turn transmit the disease to their spouses and partners. Great strides have been made in prevention and treatment, but, in this very traditional culture, the subject is still often taboo. NGOs small and large have made great strides coupled with India’s government efforts, but the system is imperfect and like many institutions and organizations in this still developing country, there can be abuse and corruption. High Fidelity Transmission is an important play which tackles both these traditional misconceptions and how a system, purportedly there to help, can merely disguise its true motivation, financial gain.
This play’s title refers to the fact that while in one case, repeated exposure to HIV/AIDS does not lead to infection, in another, a single exposure can lead to infection. This is the situation Ulfat, a young wife and university lecturer, finds herself in. She does not acquire HIV from her errant and ever unfaithful husband, but from Raju, her younger lover and student who himself acquired HIV from a singular visit to a brothel with his friends. Seeking the prohibitively expensive antiretrovirals that will save their lives, they fall into the unscrupulous sphere of an NGO promising treatment in exchange for participation in a clinical trial for a vaccine. The whole organization is a sham seeking money from eager backers and they end up taking their case to court. We also meet Elisabeth, a Catholic nun and counselor who works with HIV patients and promotes prevention in Delhi’s red-light district. The same Bishop who merely transfers a priest who has molested a young Indian boy censures her for distributing condoms to the prostitutes.
This piece does have its technical flaws, but it is well thought out and informative. One can only hope that it will be read and staged in the country of its origin and shine a light on a problem that’s not talked about enough within its culture.
John Francis Leonard is an advocate and writer, as well as a voracious reader of literature, which helps to feed his love of the English language. He has been living with HIV for thirteen years and he is currently at work on his first novel, Fools Rush In. His fiction has been published in the ImageOutWrite literary journal and he writes reviews for Lambda Literary. Follow him on Twitter @JohnFrancisleo2.