A decade ago, New Delhi’s The Ashok turned away a dozen gay men who wanted to book a conference room at the hotel for a think-in on AIDS, which was still labelled a gay man’s disease. It took several phone calls from the senior bureaucracy at the Union Health Ministry’s National AIDS Control
Organisation (NACO) to get them a 12×12 conference room for one day.
“Five years ago, the same group of men who have sex with men (MSMs, the politically correct term for homosexuals) organised a huge convention at The Ashok, with 700 MSM and transgender participants overrunning the hotel for days. Laws may not have changed in the courts or in the books, but the law in the streets has changed, and this amazing turnaround in society’s attitude has happened because of AIDS,” says JVR Prasada Rao, former Union health secretary and National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) chief, who was appointed the UN Special Envoy for AIDS in the Asia Pacific region this week.
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