I chose to look at sexual health in India as my global health problem. Specifically there is a big issue with the spread of HIV. One of the issues leading to this problem is the taboo surrounding sexual activity-especially outside of marriage. This taboo has led to conflict between volunteer agencies trying to promote sexual health and police who believe they are violating laws by educating the lower classes about safe sex and handing out free condoms. According to Patralekha Chatterjee, “At the heart of the crisis are systems of law and enforcement that remain insensitive to the requirements of the unfolding epidemic and the dangers posed by cultural taboos that impede discussions about sexual health (more than 80% of HIV cases in India are attributed to sexual transmission)”. Outreach groups who are working specifically with homosexual men are seen as acting unlawfully since homosexual sex is a criminal offence. Local governments are working to mediate between the larger governments policies and aid groups to find ways to be more sensitive to cultural taboos and help these groups to not be harassed. The Delhi State AIDS Control Society (DSACS), who is help these aid groups, is also working with police to educate them and “dispel myths about HIV/AIDS”. The origin of this problem goes back to the late nineteenth century when homosexual sex was criminalized. The origin also lies in the cultural taboos surrounding sexual activity. If people do not want to talk about it, it is difficult to promote healthy behavior. The problem of high HIV rates is exacerbated by this cultural taboo and the disconnect between aid groups who are promoting safe sex and the police who are viewing their help as unlawful. There is also a disconnect in understanding between what is needed to prevent the spread of this epidemic and what is ok to talk about.
One anthropologist working in this area is Dr. Paul Boyce out of University of Sussex. His work is largely based around understanding the world of men who have sex with men in India and AIDS. He has also written about why the HIV/AIDS epidemic is still growing despite the global efforts and programs aimed and reducing this epidemic.