As a teenager, I remembered watching the detective serial Jasoos Vijay. Detective Vijay not only solved complicated crime cases but also spread awareness about the disease AIDS and prevention measures to stop spreading it. This serial must have left a profound impression on my mind, a reason why I recalled it first as soon as I started reading the book Celebrating Small Victories by J.V.R. Prasada Rao.
Celebrating Small Victories is the memoir of Prasada Rao as a policymaker and active propagator of increasing AIDS cases in India and the world. Prasada Rao served the Indian Government(1997-2004) as assistant secretary and later as Health Secretary looking after the National AIDS Control Programme, popularly known as NACO. Later he joined various other organizations actively pushing the cause of AIDS outside India.
Under his leadership, India came out of denial mode and accepted the increasing threat of HIV in India. Unfortunately, this happened when more than 3 million people got infected with the virus. He had to push the policies and programs to see the light of the day, look for donations and allocation by the government to execute and implement the programs.
The author Prasada Rao has meticulously recorded the work done at the highest level. Data collection, procurement of funds, political hurdles, setting up commissions, planning, discussions. He showed how things take place at the government level.
He pursued the cause with passion and zeal, but the same thing does not transcend his writing. The author narrates the facts and data with passion which somehow didn’t reach me as a reader. His writing lacks warmness and personal touch.
The book sounds monotonous. Whether Prasad Rao is working in the health ministry or elsewhere in the world pursuing the cause, the content of each chapter remains the same. It felt like reading the same thing again and again.
What I missed was the execution part at the grass-root level. I wanted to read the stories behind all those ads and serials which made an appearance during advertisement breaks. I wished to know how Prasada Rao and his team fought stigma and taboos attached to this disease and propel the infected to come forward for treatment.
The author didn’t discuss the origin of the virus nor the latest treatment available for the disease. Towards the end, he mentions that any progress in AIDS treatment will suffer a setback due to the emergence of Covid 19, another virus threatening human existence.
Sadly the book doesn’t work for me. The book was informative, but it didn’t give any value to my knowledge.