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J.V.R. Prasada Rao, special secretary and project director of the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), acknowledged to Human Rights Watch that there is a problem of police abuse of outreach workers in some cases and that this harassment "is to extract money from sex workers, and some policemen are afraid that this source of money will dry up."167 He said, however, that when police are trained and sensitized, they generally cooperate with the HIV/AIDS work. "This is not a universal problem but is localized. . . . These are not organized human rights violations." Christodas Gandhi, director of the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society, echoed this view with respect to his jurisdiction, asserting that police abuse against women in prostitution is "localized and temporary" in Tamil Nadu. "The problem may be with the lower-level constable-we can't help this. The police have a duty to pick up sex workers. I have heard about an incident where the sex worker was picked up because she had a condom in hand, but we don't have that here."168

NACO is an office of the Ministry of Public Health and Family Welfare. Human Rights Watch asked J.V.R.P. Rao if it would be useful for the central government to include formally the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the state-level home ministries, which together oversee the police force, in the administration of the national AIDS program. He said that at the state level, the AIDS Control Societies were already multisectoral with respect to the various social sectors-education, rural development, and so on-and that the formal inclusion of police commissioners at that level or home ministries at the state or central level was not necessary. "It's a question of the outlook of these [police] commissioners," he said, noting that if the higher-ups in the police hierarchy were sensitized, there will be improvements. Neelam Kapur, then joint director of NACO, said that NGOs supported by the national program funds are always given sufficient funds to include police training and sensitization in their work.169 Rao said that nongovernmental organizations, particularly those with international funding, could reduce impediments to their work by giving more attention to community relations and involvement of community members in their work.170

Dr. Swarup Sarkar, the regional director of UNAIDS for South Asia, recognized the severity of the problem of police abuse of high-risk groups and the need for constant sensitization of police to help create an "enabling environment" for HIV/AIDS prevention work.171 He emphasized that 110 of 170 countries affected by HIV/AIDS are still classified as "low-prevalence," and in these countries, prevention among high-priority groups, such as women in prostitution and men who have sex with men, is the most essential work. Sarkar said the United Nations agencies were vulnerable to the charge that their human rights focus with respect to HIV/AIDS had shifted somewhat from the rights of traditional high-risk groups to the rights of persons with HIV/AIDS.

One response by the United Nations agencies to a concern about harassment of HIV/AIDS workers in India is their support for the development of a monitoring system that will collect data on whether persons and organizations working on HIV/AIDS face "any obstruction from the police or local power structure in implementing NACO guidelines."172 This effort will be part of a nationwide collection of data on a variety of non-clinical indicators to assist program evaluation and planning. Data collection began only in early 2002 so no results were available. Sarkar said this monitoring system in India would be unique in the world.

The terms of the World Bank's loan that supports the national AIDS program in India includes the government's adherence to a "national policy letter" that includes "unequivocal support" for the human rights principles articulated in major United Nations statements on HIV/AIDS.173 Dr. Salim Habayeb, lead public health specialist for South Asia of the World Bank, said the Bank recognizes its responsibility to monitor and respond to human rights violations that risk undermining the work funded by its HIV/AIDS lending.174 He noted that monitoring of the human rights component of the national program has been "unfortunately spotty" and has relied on reports made to the United Nations Theme Group on HIV/AIDS in India, a group that includes U.N. agencies, major donors, and government and NGO representatives. He welcomed information from human rights organizations that would guide further consideration of AIDS-related abuses.

167 Human Rights Watch interview with J.V.R. Prasada Rado, April 4, 2002.

168 Human Rights Watch interview with Christodas Gandhi, March 19, 2002.

169 Human Rights Watch interview with Neelam Kapur, Joint Director (Information, Education, Communication), NACO, New Delhi, April 4, 2002. (Kapur has since left NACO.)

170 Human Rights Watch interview with J.V.P. Rao, April 4, 2002.

171 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Swarup Sarkar, UNAIDS Regional Office, New Delhi, April 1, 2002.

172 Ibid.

173 The World Bank. Project appraisal document on a proposed credit in the amount of SDR 140.82 million to India for a Second National HIV/AIDS Control Project. Report no. 18918-IN, May 13, 1999, Annex 3, Second National HIV/AIDS Control Project, National Policy Letter, pp. 23-24. The policy commitment here refers to a World Health Assembly resolution on avoidance of discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS and to the Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1997/33, which also contains strong anti-discrimination language with respect to persons "infected or affected" by HIV/AIDS and enjoins states to "take all necessary steps to ensure the respect, protection and fulfilment of HIV-related human rights as contained in the Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights," including to "develop and support appropriate mechanisms to monitor and enforce HIV/AIDS-related human rights."

174 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Salim Habayeb, World Bank, Washington, DC, April 22, 2002.

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