The road to ruin
By Jo Johnson
Auntie Noorie, a middle-aged eunuch from the hijra transgender community of Chennai - the huge south Indian port-city - is in great demand. For the loneliest of India’s lonely hearts, there’s no better matchmaker. In a mid-life career shift, the 54-year-old former sex worker has reinvented herself as a specialist marriage-broker-cum-agony-aunt for the HIV-positive community. Twenty years ago, she became the third person to be diagnosed HIV-positive in India. In these two decades an epidemic of terrifying proportions has spread across the sub-continent, infecting more than five million Indians. With 500,000 new cases recorded a year, experts say that if India has not done so already, it will soon overtake South Africa as the country with the most HIV infections. And it will be in India, home to one-sixth of humanity, that the global fight against Aids will be won or lost.