22 October, 2020

Our Live-in Virus: What Does the Real Covid Map Look Like?

Corona has settled over this landmass like a moving cryptic crossword. Can we really read its clues?

Our Live-in Virus: What Does the Real Covid Map Look Like?

Let’s take a step back from a Covid-induced humidity, if such a thing is possible. And rewind to the mid-1980s when another scourge, a real ‘unknown unknown’ that had unnerved the West, was beginning to surface in India—HIV, or the human immunodeficiency virus. Veteran physician T. Jacob John has a vivid memory of a panic-stricken October evening in 1986 when Vellore’s Christian Medical College—where he headed the virology department—admitted one of its first HIV patients. An American, the patient was taken in by evening and at night his room was locked from the outside. The door was opened slightly, tremulously, for dinner—it was pushed towards him by a wardboy who scampered back to safety soon after.

The HIV danger, by then, was real, clear and present—in 1986, the first cases of AIDS in India had been discovered among sex-workers in remand homes in Tamil Nadu. How the infections first started was never tracked down, though it was clear it had come in via foreign visitors and then spread. India’s HIV...



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