Photo by Marguerite Heeb

Siddharth Dube is a non-fiction writer and specialist commentator on poverty, public health, and development.

His books include An Indefinite Sentence: A personal history of outlawed love and sexIn the Land of Poverty: Memoirs of an Impoverished Indian Family, 1947-1997Sex, Lies and AIDS; and the central essay to photographer Sebastião Salgado’s The End of Polio. In 2025, Viking Penguin India will publish In the Land of Poverty: An Epic Century in the Life of a Family and a Nation.

Dube was born in Calcutta in 1961. He studied at Tufts University, the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism, and the Harvard School of Public Health, where he completed his MSc in 1991. He has since been scholar-in-residence at Yale University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS, senior fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York City, and a long-term visiting fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi. He is a contributing editor to The Caravan, India’s iconic long-form magazine.

Siddharth Dube has worked and consulted for the World Bank, UNICEF, WHO and other international organizations, until 2006 as senior adviser to the Executive Director of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. In 2009, he was a member of the UNAIDS Leadership Transition Working Group. In 2020, Dube was appointed by the West Bengal government to a global advisory board on COVID19, chaired by economist Abhijit Banerjee.

An activist on diverse fronts, in 2006, Siddharth Dube, the writer Vikram Seth and the historian Saleem Kidwai initiated a campaign urging the Indian government and the judiciary to decriminalize same-sex relations. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen joined the campaign with a complementary open letter, writing, “It is surprising that independent India has not yet been able to rescind the colonial era monstrosity in the shape of Section 377, dating from 1861.”

In 2013, Swami Agnivesh, Justice VR Krishna Iyer, Dube and others launched a campaign urging fair and timely trial for the thousands of adivasis in Central India who remain imprisoned as under-trials, often many years after being arrested, accused of ‘Naxalite/ Maoist’ offenses. One of Dube’s main causes is the decriminalization of consensualadult sex work, a matter that is discussed in depth in his new book on outlawed love and sex and in his Caravan cover story.

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Selected Press

Emily Bazelon, New York Times Magazine
Those women are often the ones arrested on charges of brothel-keeping or trafficking, says Siddharth Dube, a public-health expert and former senior adviser at U.N.AIDS who writes extensively about sex work in India in a memoir, “No One Else.” He adds, “And this is a disaster, because this is a helpless impoverished woman in her 40s or 50s trying to survive.”

Hemal Ashar, MidDay
Indians are characteristically accepting…But that emotion is destroyed by bad governance.

Shreya Ila Anasuya
No One Else is remarkable in both depth and breadth. Dube manages to tell not just his own story, but the stories of people he considers as standing beside him in the fight for freedom.

From the US Supreme Court, a Shot Heard Round the World, reports Barbara Crossette
Siddharth Dube, a writer who has advocated for gay rights in India and the UN, where he worked for many years, greeted the Supreme Court decision with joy.

No Room for LGBT Rights in the New UN Development Goals, reports Barbara Crossette
Dube said that India’s “scandalous” vote in the UN is in keeping with the record of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which was elected to power last year.

The Guardian
“I find it difficult to understand how any development leader can believe that funding for Aids in Africa was a distraction from other priorities. Aids was, and continues to be, a make-or-break emergency in much of sub-Saharan Africa,” said Siddharth Dube.

Aids prognosis uncertain in New Delhi- Financial Times
“This is one of the good examples of moral pressure really working,” says Siddharth Dube, an HIV/Aids expert with the New York-based World Policy Institute.

Le Monde
Querelle passionnée en Inde autour de la dépénalisation de l’ homosexualité.

The Week
As well written as any first-rate work of fiction.

Amitabh Dubey – REDIFF.COM
Siddharth Dube should be an unpopular man among those who anticipate a prosperous market-driven future for India, and especially with non-resident Indians who think he presents a negative image of India here in the United States.

Ashok Banker
I was impressed by his research, scholarship, and most of all, by his chutzpah in daring to write such a book in the face of government apathy at the AIDS epidemic sweeping the country (and the world).

Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal
Dube relentlessly catalogs the powerlessness of the rural poor, the sickness, the fear, the rigid customs and ownership structures that keep many peasants in a vise of poverty. And he pops cherished notions, showing us, for instance, that overpopulation is the result, not the cause, of poverty.

The Telegraph
A silent revolution brought on by a little known book written in English is sweeping through a small village located in the heartland of caste-ridden Uttar Pradesh.

Times of India
Writer Siddharth Dube is not in the business of peddling hope. But then, hope doesn’t come easy when one is writing on a subject as stark as poverty, especially when you choose to tell the story of the poor in the voices of the poor.

Dilip D’Souza
In the course of researching his book Sex, Lies and AIDS, Siddharth Dube traveled all over India and met all kinds of people. The book has a lot to say about AIDS in India, and the numbers and prospects he runs through are frightening. Yet what left me far more disturbed than numbers were the attitudes he encountered.

International Press Institute, World Congress 2001
India: Experiment in Democracy

India’s anti-gay law faces challenge
Amid a climate of growing sexual tolerance within urban India, a campaign to force the government to decriminalize homosexuality is rapidly gaining momentum.

Open Letters Against IPC Section 377
To build a truly democratic and plural India, we must collectively fight against laws and policies that abuse human rights and limit fundamental freedoms.

Open Letter 2009
To build a truly democratic and plural India, we must collectively fight against laws and policies that abuse human rights and limit fundamental freedoms

Gay Indians seek sexual equality
Siddharth Dube, a gay Indian who writes on poverty and public health, sees “an enormous world of difference” in the confidence of India’s young gay community compared with when he came of age in the 1980s. Then, Mr Dube says, he “felt terrified every day”.

Equal Rights For Homosexuals Contentious at U.N.

A movement for gay rights, not a subject publicly discussed much around the United Nations, is steadily taking shape within the organization at the same time the issue has gripped the Anglican church worldwide and sparked exchanges at the highest political levels in Washington.

South Asians take gay struggle to the UN
A movement, headed by South Asians, is taking shape to challenge the United Nations system to protect the human rights of gay minorities around the world.

The New York Times
”The world has enough money to do all those things,” said Siddharth Dube, a health policy expert and the author of ”Sex, Lies and AIDS” (HarperCollins 2001), a book critical of the Indian government’s response to AIDS. India has the second-largest number of H.I.V. infected people in the world, after South Africa.

The world is in Goa, ask Lorca Mahalingam Pinto
Last week, Siddharth Dubey, an incessant traveler with an even more peripatetic mind left the confines of policy meeting rooms, think tanks, the stuffiness of the World bank and the United Nations and even his father’s forested hill side home on in Cunoor, to come, live and write in Goa.

India Abroad
India has to spend around 10 times what it does on prevention and it does not include treatment.