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January 16, 2008 3:12 AM   Subscribe

Manipur, which has a population of 2,388,634, has the highest rate of HIV in the country, which is also the reason why it has the most number of NGOs working in the area. However, what is disturbing is that a day or two ago, one of these NGOs bribed a group of children into getting their blood tested, so that they could increase their chances of garnering more funds.
posted by hadjiboy (37 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
If only the biggest offense done to children everywhere would be to give them candy, money and test them for deseases!
posted by CautionToTheWind at 4:13 AM on January 16, 2008


Your missing the point: These children were taken away from their parents (without their consent—which is an offence punishable by law here), and tested for HIV, again—without the permission of their parents (which is again punishable by law), for the express purpose of jacking up the no. of AIDS fatalities in the area, so that they could get more money for their project—and not out of some altruistic gesture. So, yeah—it is a big deal.
posted by hadjiboy at 5:27 AM on January 16, 2008


Why am I getting the impression that they were infected with HIV? It never explicitly says that anywhere that I could see. I say that because of this quote from the last link:

"That is to say, their action may or may not result in murder ultimately, but the intent was definitely not murder but filthy lucre once again."

and what you just said:

"for the express purpose of jacking up the no. of AIDS fatalities in the area"

Isn't it just testing for the virus?
posted by saraswati at 5:47 AM on January 16, 2008


From what I understand NGOs are far from being a bunch of nice guys, and in fact resort to dirty tricks all the time. This doesn't surprise me one bit, and in fact is probably rather benign compared to other stuff they do.
posted by Vindaloo at 6:02 AM on January 16, 2008


Yeah, but if found positive--they will be treated as HIV patients (hence my use of fatalities = sufferers).

The reference to murder was probably just to illustrate the seriousness of the crime (which I agree, they had no reason to do), but I'm pretty sure that if the scenario you painted ever happened--we'd be hearing a lot more about it than this.
posted by hadjiboy at 6:02 AM on January 16, 2008


It isn't the end of the world, but it certainly adds to the distrust that Western organizations tend to enjoy while engaged in aid work. And it's precisely this sort of shady action that can lead to something much worse.
posted by mek at 6:13 AM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


for the express purpose of jacking up the no. of AIDS fatalities in the area, so that they could get more money for their project—and not out of some altruistic gesture. So, yeah—it is a big deal.

So what they wanted was more money -- for treating AIDS patients and building facilities for treatment? Mmm... I'm not quite sure I see that as super-horrible. Just doesn't trip my outrage wire. Certainly I can see why people would be upset, but it just doesn't seem that awful to me.

If they were diverting money from better NGOs, if they were using dirty equipment or risked spreading the disease I'd be brimming with fiery condemnation, I'm sure. But if the outcome they were looking for was essentially to bring more money to the region for treatment.

(Of course, there is also the issue of whether of not inflating their numbers could case money to be spent disproportionately in that region per the number of AIDS patients)
posted by delmoi at 6:16 AM on January 16, 2008


I think this is bunk. It alleges that murder may be a result of the HIV testing. What. The. Eff.

That's a little tiny MAJOR leap in logic. Without anything to explain their reasoning, it's just hopelessly nonsensical drivel.
posted by jock@law at 6:22 AM on January 16, 2008


But if the outcome they were looking for was essentially to bring more money to the region for treatment.

Or, what if they were trying to siphon off some of the money from the top. I don't know, it sure sounds suspicious to me, and although the article didn't indicate this, I wouldn't be surprised if that is what they were doing--with the kind of corruption we have over here.

Like the writer of the piece says: we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater, so I'm holding my breath on that one.
posted by hadjiboy at 6:24 AM on January 16, 2008


These NGOs if they are indeed guilty of what has been alleged against them – and we have strong reasons to believe they are – were trying to make a quick buck unethically, which is an offence, but not as dark as direct murder. That is to say, their action may or may not result in murder ultimately, but the intent was definitely not murder but filthy lucre once again.

Here's the para in question that seems to be causing the problem.

I think what they were trying to do was show the seriousness of the crime, by comparing it to murder, even though they do say that it is "not as dark as direct murder" (which maybe their way of shielding themselves from criticism), I do think they got a little ahead of themselves on that count.

It still doesn't excuse the actions of the perpetrators of this crime.
posted by hadjiboy at 6:35 AM on January 16, 2008


The "bribed group children" article is written rather poorly, but I guess that they did the following:

1. take children from an area Y
2. have them say they were really from X and test them for aids (blood sample I guess?)
3. present the bill somewhere , as they probably are paid per # test administered

Considering that the risks coming with blood sampling ( if that was the test) may be low, but not nihil , I think the parents should have been fairly warned , also because the test, if actually and properly done, may have yelded some positives. Unless there is some reason for the parents refusing their consent, for instance some religious practice, I guess they bribed the childrens because it's a lot less expensive than bribing parents.
posted by elpapacito at 6:38 AM on January 16, 2008


Yeah, but if found positive--they will be treated as HIV patients (hence my use of fatalities = sufferers).

I must be misunderstanding something here. Are you saying that if they're found to be positive for HIV, they'll be treated as people with HIV?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 6:48 AM on January 16, 2008


Doesn't being found positive for HIV, mean you have HIV?
posted by hadjiboy at 7:10 AM on January 16, 2008


According to the article you linked, two workers from one NGO tested nine children for HIV in Manipur without their parents' consent, then were summarily fired. While this is unfortunate, it's millions of miles from outrageous.
posted by facetious at 7:24 AM on January 16, 2008


While this is unfortunate, it's millions of miles from outrageous

Yeah, I bet if someone took your kid, bribed him with candy, tested him for AIDS, told him not to reveal his identity, and then gave him 90 Rupees ($2) to keep his mouth shut--you'd probably call it "unfortunate" too, facetious.
posted by hadjiboy at 7:33 AM on January 16, 2008


Well at least they didn't try to astroturf AskMe!
posted by Pollomacho at 7:43 AM on January 16, 2008


Doesn't being found positive for HIV, mean you have HIV?

Presumably. So what's your point in saying "they will be treated as HIV patients"? Shouldn't they be?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 7:56 AM on January 16, 2008


In a hurry, so I'll post a quick comment here: not a big deal. Manipuri society is traditionally very very suspicious of all "outsiders" (in the Imphal Valley, that typically means 'non-Meiteis') for a variety of reasons, some legit, some imagined. Yes, when you're dealing with sensitive issues such as AIDS, you must do your best to be completely transparent in your dealings, and yes, the NGO in question f-ed up big time.

That is to say, from what little I know about the region, this would rank as a higher crime than anything else:-
The volunteers also asked the children to tell the doctors at the hospital that they hailed from Chandel district and were told not to speak Manipuri during the course of the tests.
Manipuri == Meitei in this context, to distinguish it from the other Manipuri, Bishnupriya Manipuri. My point here is that had they merely given those kids some cash and asked them to get tested, nobody would have bothered. This is a town where they burned down the local Secretariat because of a rumour that a neighbouring state will be expanded into some of the border districts back in the 90's, and one where districts are still seemingly segregated by language. The most charitable response you can get is to ask what those volunteers were thinking.

That said, in a community (and, eventually nation) where they're talking of making HIV-tests mandatory for all in-patients, I really don't see how this is a big deal. I've said this before out here, but AIDS is big money in India; people _will_ do their utmost in increasing their funding sources. They will push envelopes and such.

As "fights" go, this one's legit. In the grande scheme of things, however, it would rank rather low indeed.
posted by the cydonian at 8:02 AM on January 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


Thanks for clearing that up cydonian. I was just going through the Meitei link myself.

Armitage Shanks, of course. I don't see where I said otherwise.
posted by hadjiboy at 8:22 AM on January 16, 2008


I still don't understand why using a fungible incentive to get people to get tested for HIV is "disturbing," regardless of the immediate externalities.
posted by jock@law at 8:57 AM on January 16, 2008


Because HIV still holds a lot of stigma here in peoples minds. The identity of the person being tested, and the result, needs to be protected. If you're taking a child, without the consent of his or her parent, and then taking them to be tested--what's the guarantee that their won't be any other sort of abuse?
posted by hadjiboy at 9:05 AM on January 16, 2008


Hey cool, I think the CDC should do this in the U.S.

1) Drive up to a park in a van
2) Offer kids candy to get in the van with you and go for a ride
3) Take the kids to the hospital and draw blood from them.
4) Drop the kids back at the park, and give them $10 so they won't tell people about the fun secret ride they got to go on.

I can't think the American public would disagree with that approach to disease control. I mean, other than every adult involved either being lynched or going to prison.
posted by tkolar at 9:15 AM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks for being a voice of reason; I think I can go to bed now.
posted by hadjiboy at 9:23 AM on January 16, 2008


If we're going to get pissed off about corners cut in the pursuit of filthy lucre, I think there are much, much bigger fish to fry. (larger by several orders of magnitude)
posted by Freen at 9:35 AM on January 16, 2008



>If we're going to get pissed off about corners cut in the pursuit of filthy lucre, I think there are >much, much bigger fish to fry. (larger by several orders of magnitude)

Kidnapping 9 kids to run medical tests on them is not "cutting corners".

But you're right, since the kids were returned safely (we're pretty sure, anyway) and the perpetrators were fired, we can reserve our limited reservoir of outrage for more important issues.
posted by tkolar at 9:53 AM on January 16, 2008


There's been a lot of jiggery-pokery with numbers in this field. Last summer the government of India announced that the total number of HIV cases was 2.5 million, not 5.7 million as had previously been thought to be the case.

And estimates of HIV prevalence in other parts of the world have also been drastically revised downward. The obvious suspicion is that people on-the-spot who have a vested interest in lots of anti-HIV funding have an incentive to exaggerate the size of the problem.

That's not to say we should stop working on it, or anything like that. But it increases the overall suspicion of everyone who hysterically shrieks, "OH MY GOD This is a terrible situation, and if you don't give us lots of money the very UNIVERSE is going to come to an end!"
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:31 AM on January 16, 2008


The death of 2.5 million people is a tragedy, the death of 5.7 million a statistic.
posted by tkolar at 11:16 AM on January 16, 2008


tkolar, if large parts of the country were refusing to get tested, then yes, the CDC should do that. If Texas all the sudden became hostile to health officials trying to treat children with fatal diseases, then the government not only should be allowed, but would have a DUTY to remove those children from the care of their obstructionist parents.

There are children dying. The only actors capable of addressing the problem are parents, the government, and NGOs. Parents are superstitious, and the government is indifferent. What else would you have done?

Letting kids die for your abstract values of family sovereignty is just sick, twisted BS.
posted by jock@law at 11:33 AM on January 16, 2008


just take them to a fine sweatshop instead! over there, nobody cares if they have HIV or not, as long as they're sewing those sneakers!
posted by matteo at 12:11 PM on January 16, 2008


I can see where when the adult intravaneous drug users have a 10% HIV infection rate it makes a compelling case for kidnapping random kids from the larger population for blood tests.

On wait, no I can't.
posted by tkolar at 12:19 PM on January 16, 2008


As someone who has worked in international charity and seen how quickly trust can be destroyed by actions that are well-meant but not well-thought-out, I have to side with the critical voices on this one. The short-term benefit to a few children risks substantial long-term loss for the whole effort.

A la tkolar, think of how skittish Americans are getting about foreign investment in U.S. banks & real estate, then imagine how they'd would react if folks from different countries & religions started targeting their kids outside parental oversight.
posted by jefftrexler at 4:47 PM on January 16, 2008


Look people, what is important to realize is that all an NGO is is a non-governmental organization. Seriously. That means that an NGO can be good or bad, effective or ineffective, just like any organization. They're not more or less likely to do immoral things. They tend to be manipulated by (and, thus, tend to also attempt to manipulate) funding. Obviously, this affects them differently than if they were a corporation who could raise funds by selling a good or service, or a government who could raise funds through taxes or borrowing money.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:29 PM on January 16, 2008


tkolar: So, by your logic, you would agree with the idea that Christian Scientists have the right to deny their children potentially life-saving medical care because of their family's cultural values and religious beliefs?

Let's put aside the spectacularly crude actions of these aid workers as well as whatever fund-raising intentions they might have had for a moment. You will have to at minimum admit that there are a far more shades of moral ambiguity to the question of what to do with children whose family and familial culture are significant, immediate and potentially lethal malefactors than your example illustrates. To say otherwise would be reductive in the extreme.

And regardless of your CDC example, we do use the state's coercive power to separate children from parents all the time in the US, so I'm unmoved by arguments about the evils of the state's coercive power per se, especially in matters involving the welfare of children.

That said, since these workers were working for an NGO in a democratically-elected country, as opposed to the government proper, they were certainly overstepping their bounds. But I'm hardly moved to outrage.
posted by Weebot at 9:26 PM on January 16, 2008


Let's put aside the spectacularly crude actions of these aid workers as well as whatever fund-raising intentions they might have had for a moment.

And that's just it: you can't put aside the behaviour of these aid-workers, no matter how good (if at all) their intentions were. And to say that the parents or the culture is to be blamed for any impediment that there might've been in the children getting treated--is stupid--because there's no proof of that being done here.
These aid-workers didn't go to the people to educate them about AIDS, and the benefits of getting tested, and then urged them to get their children tested as well. What they did do was kidnap a bunch of kids and took them to get tested for thier own personal gain. (I don't know why this is so hard to understand, but you can't do that--not even in the States.)
Hell if that were the case, then who's to say why any of us should stop the authorities from taking away our children and having them tested (is that the way it works over there?) any time they wanted to.
posted by hadjiboy at 11:24 PM on January 16, 2008




hadjiboy, I sense frustration in your future if you continue to argue with Weebot. He's looking to make a philosophical point, not address the situation as it stands in Manipur.

I think this was an excellent post and well worth making. You may wish to quit now while you're ahead :-)
posted by tkolar at 12:05 AM on January 17, 2008


hadjiboy: Re-read what I said. I agree that what they did was wrong (and I don't think I mentioned anything about good intentions in my post.) Furthermore, I was replying to tkolar's CDC analogy, which I found completely wrongheaded.

Where I disagree is the implicit assumption that there are no entities with the authority to force a minimum standard of treatment towards children—medical, in this case. The aid worker's crossed the line when they assumed that authority, which was certainly not theirs. Hence my use of the term "state power", something which an NGO would ontologically not have.

Governments should have the right (and I would argue a duty) to intervene on the part of the child's interests. If you're advocating the right of family sovereignty above all, one of the logical consequences of that is the perpetration of reprehensible acts of neglect and abuse towards children. If no one else besides the parents has the right to act in the interests of a child's well-being, then the children are left at their parent's mercy, and I don't think you want to make an argument based on the idea that parents always know best.

I didn't get to say this when I responded to tkolar, but I wanted to add this to my reply to the CDC analogy: the idea that the current US populace would never debate the idea of coercing kids into medical treatment is completely wrong. You don't need to look farther than the battles over the HPV vaccine, the adoption of which has been marred almost exclusively by cultural issues with a passing similarity to the ones that outline the context of the FPP.
posted by Weebot at 9:46 PM on January 17, 2008


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