amfAR Mourns the Loss of Pioneering Activist Shivananda Khan
Shivananda Khan, a widely respected activist who spearheaded and defined the LGBT rights and sexual health movements in his native India and across South Asia, passed away on May 20.
Mr. Khan was a longtime close friend and ally of amfAR and spoke at many Foundation events and forums. Among them was amfAR’s 2006 World AIDS Day Summit, where he made a presentation titled The Gathering Storm (Again): HIV/AIDS Among MSM In Asia, on tackling rising HIV rates among gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in countries where they are a highly marginalized and often criminalized group.
Khan was born in a remote northeastern state of India and then emigrated to the UK where, in 1996, he founded Naz Foundation International (NFI). NFI was among the first organizations to organize and empower MSM in South Asia to develop their own HIV and sexual health services, providing prevention, treatment, care, and other forms of support. It continues to offer ongoing financial and technical support to community-based organizations and networks of MSM across the region. In 2005, Queen Elizabeth II awarded Khan the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in recognition of his work.
In a 2006 interview with amfAR, Khan reflected on NFI’s aspirations and continuing struggles in India after ten years of activism saying, “Our main goals involve developing HIV services by MSM themselves. We believe in ownership. We need to own the disease, own the virus, so we can deal more effectively with it.”
In 2009, Naz Foundation (India) was instrumental in the New Delhi High Court’s decision to decriminalize homosexuality. “Shivananda Khan was not only a close personal friend, he was a tireless activist who redefined the response to HIV among marginalized populations in South Asia,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “His work touched millions of lives and its impact will endure for many years to come. He will be greatly missed.”