Manian, Sunita. HIV/AIDS in India: Voices from the Margins. New York: Routledge, 2017.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic is a serious issue in India, which ranks third globally in the number of individuals living with HIV/AIDS. For the uneducated and undereducated and poor in India, this disease brings new social, legal, and economic struggles. Sunita Manian, a professor of political economy at Georgia College and the former president of the Association of Global South Studies, tells the stories of HIV-positive individuals from the lower-income sects of the Tamil Nadu population and provides a valuable commentary on the consequences of the heteronormative social structure in India.
Manian conducted her research in Tamil Nadu, where she interviewed male, female, and transgender (aravani) sex workers and married and widowed HIV-positive women who had become infected by their husbands. As the book progresses, it becomes clear that the reality of sexuality, sexual identity, and sexual orientation in India cannot be categorized according to a western formula. For example, the sexuality and sexual identity of male and transgender sex workers in India are not as straightforward as simply being gay, bisexual, or queer. Socioeconomic factors influence even the term that one uses to express their sexual identity/activity. Manian interviewed several male participants who referred to themselves as MSM (men who have sex with men) without identifying themselves as homosexuals. Manian argues that although MSM was a term used to express sexual activity, it has become an identity marker (p. 43).
In the introduction, Manian begins by discussing sexuality in India and the social perceptions of nonheterosexual relations. Manian argues that characterizing HIV/AIDS as a heterosexual disease is disingenuous and has dire implications for decreasing the spread of the disease in India (p. 3). She criticizes the Indian government by arguing that manipulating information is one of the factors behind the distorted characterization of the disease. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 focus on sexual minorities from the low-income and undereducated sects of the population. In chapter 2, Manian argues that the non-Anglophone, low-income sexual minorities in India lack the knowledge and agency to connect to the global virtual communities where they can be themselves without legal consequences (p. 31). In chapter 3, the stories of aravanis and MSMs highlight a stark difference between them and female...