Goodbye to another hero in the AIDS movement Ramesh Venkataraman

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Goodbye to another hero in the AIDS movement Ramesh Venkataraman

06 February 2009

By Leonard Okello
International head of HIV/Aids, ActionAid

I have received the very sad news of the sudden death of Ramesh Venkataraman, the former ActionAid Asia HIV and AIDS regional coordinator. Ramesh joined ActionAid in April 2007 till he resigned his post at the close of 2008. He passed away on 31 January due to an internal haemorrhage. He had been suffering from multiple illnesses.

Over the last two years that I have worked with Ramesh, he touched my heart and became literally like my younger brother. He had—and will continue to have—a special place in my heart. We shared in depth both official and personal challenges and opportunities.

Ramesh had a deep passion for his work and a special love for ActionAid. He always stood up for Human Rights and fought injustice straight on, but his health frustrated him more and more as the days passed by. He always told me how much he knew of his abilities, but was getting increasingly frustrated by his physical strength failing him. He feared to fail the team that he loved so much and had a sense of responsibility that often drove him to tears of pain and hope depending on the context.

Ramesh was immensely intelligent, and had super advocacy skills with a range of media, cameras, drama, information technology, and a rich humorous language, something that fate never allowed him to fully utilize.

When we last met together in Delhi, Ramesh informed me that he feared his body was giving up. He resigned about two weeks thereafter. We kept in touch on and off although the phone lines were often not really friendly. Last time Ramesh and I talked on phone briefly he was very hopeful following a knee surgery.

But like my mother often told me, when a patient gives you a lot of hope, then you know it is about time to prepare for the worst. Human life, she always told me, lives on hope and it is hope that must keep you going till you rest at the end.

There is something else I learnt from the comrades of the African National Congress (ANC) and at college in Uganda, during the anti-apartheid struggles. "Do not mourn, Comrades, Mobilize!" was the slogan that kept them moving during tough times.

I am seeking of each and every one of the global AIDS movements across the world, to use this time of reflection to mobilize even more to deal with HIV and improve our health.

Please keep the fire that Ramesh kept burning so that we can deliver on whatever he left behind not yet done. Let us complete the struggle for human rights as passionately as he would have loved too.

May his soul rest in eternal peace. Aluta Continua! Solidarity!!