“Even an HIV infected person can live 100 years”: Perceptions of HIV among Hijras in Mysore, India


 Background: Hijras, a third gender in India, are biological males that often must engage in sex work with men for economic survival (Asthana & Oostvogels, 2001; Hernandez et al., 2006). Research has noted that this is one of the most common reason why rates of HIV/ AIDS remain high among this population (Go et al., 2004; Hernandez et al., 2006).  The current study explores HIV/ AIDS knowledge and perceptions of HIV/ AIDS among Hijras residing in Mysore, India using a qualitative methodology.

Methods: A total of 14 Hijras were recruited from urban neighborhoods in Mysore, India. Each participated in one of two focus groups that averaged 98 minutes. The constant comparative approach was used to identify the most common beliefs about HIV acquisition and virus management, and general HIV/ AIDS knowledge.

Results: The majority of participants noted that they had received or were able to access HIV/ AIDS education programming. However, actual HIV knowledge varied across populations; inaccurate modes of transmission were reported by some participants. However, HIV transmission and acquis ion risk was not viewed as a significant health concern. The virus was viewed as a type of chronic disease that could be managed with medicines and following certain health regiments.

Conclusion: Clearly, Intervention programs targeting sexual minority communities need to better identify the educational needs of Hijras, with a focus on the provision of accurate and relevant information.

 Asthana, S., & Oostvogels, R. (2001). The social construction of male ‘homosexuality’ in India: Implications for HIV transmission and prevention. Social Science and Medicine, 52(5), 707–721.

Hernandez, A. L., Lindan, C. P., Mathur, M., Ekstrand, M., Madhivanan, P., Stein, E. S., . . . Jerajani, H. R. (2006). Sexual Behavior Among Men Who have Sex with Women, Men, and Hijras in Mumbai, India—Multiple Sexual Risks. AIDS and Behavior, 10(S1), 5-16. doi:10.1007/s10461-006-9129-z

Go, V. F., Srikrishnan, A. K., Sivaram, S., Murugavel, G. K., Galai, N., & Johnson, S. C. et al. (2004). High HIV prevalence and risk behaviors in men who have sex with men in Chennai, India. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 35(3), 314–319.


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