Dead Man Walking (Part I)

By Pankaj Debbarma

May 2, 2024

In the hidden corners of Tripura, amidst the whispers of despair and the discarded syringes, a harrowing reality unfolds– a narrative of lives ensnared in the clutches of drug abuse and HIV. Among the most vulnerable victims of this epidemic are the students belonging to the indigenous Tipra community, their futures hanging precariously in the balance as they succumb to the scourge of addiction. Chief Minister Manik Saha’s recent disclosures paint a distressing picture, revealing a surge in intravenous drug abuse among students and youths, serving as a potent conduit for HIV transmission.

The statistics from Tripura’s State AIDS Control Board are alarming. Out of the 5,330 HIV positive or AIDS patients in the state, a significant 558 are students. This figure represents around 10 percent of the total affected population, with a majority belonging to the Tipra community. This prevalence within the Tipra community reflects the severity of the crisis, particularly for them. Moreover, an average of 150-200 new HIV-positive cases are reported to the Tripura State AIDS Control Society (TSACS) every month, further exacerbating the situation.

In this tragic saga, these students are akin to “dead men walking,” their futures hanging by a fragile thread, consumed by the relentless grip of addiction. Yet, the tragedy extends beyond their individual suffering. Society, with its apathy and resignation, stands as “dead men watching,” complicit in the perpetuation of this crisis.

It is imperative that desperate action be taken to address this pressing issue. There is an urgent need for the expansion of harm reduction services, destigmatization and decriminalization initiatives, and targeted interventions addressing the underlying social determinants of vulnerability.

The time for action is now. Every moment wasted is another life lost to the abyss of despair. We cannot afford to remain passive bystanders in the face of this epidemic. We must stand in solidarity with these afflicted students, lending our voices to their plight, and forging a path towards a brighter future.

Dead Man Walking is not just a reality of individual suffering, but a stark reminder of the collective responsibility we bear towards our society’s most vulnerable members. The students of Tripura deserve better – they deserve a future free from the shackles of addiction and HIV. Let us heed the call for desperate action and rewrite the narrative of despair into one of hope and resilience.

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3 thoughts on “Dead Man Walking (Part I)”

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