Karnataka to take care of stigmatised HIV positive children

Around two years ago, when five-year-old Saraswati M. (name changed) lost both her parents to AIDS, she was literally forced to stay on the roads. Saraswati, who inherited the deadly disease from her parents, had nobody to take care of her as she was "ostracized" from society due to the stigma attached to AIDS.

However, a distant relative of Saraswati took pity on her and now she is staying with them in Bangalore. In order to address issues and problems of children like Saraswati, who are infected with HIV-AIDS and have lost their parents to the disease, Karnataka will soon provide special homes. Five such homes will be set up in north Karnataka to take care of orphaned children with HIV-AIDS.

"The homes are likely to come up in a couple of months. We'll soon decide on the places in north Karnataka where these homes will be established," said Suresh Shastri, consultant, Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society (KSAPS).

"Along with taking care of food and shelter, the homes will also provide education to the inmates," Shastri  said.

The homes are the brainchild of the state's women and child welfare department in association with the KSAPS. "Around 60 children will be sheltered in each home. A sum of Rs.1 crore will be spent on each home," said Shastri.

Lauding the latest effort, G. Ravi Babu, founder of Desire Society, a home for orphaned children with AIDS in Bangalore, said the homes would hugely help in rehabilitating the children.

"These children on a daily basis face stigma and discrimination. It's a welcome move by the government to rehabilitate these children who have no one to look after them," added Babu, who shelters 20 children in the age group of two to 14 years in Desire Society.

The homes will provide orphaned HIV- infected children special counselling, including sex education, to prevent further spread of the disease.

"We'll give special medical care and psychological support to the inmates. These children suffer from inferiority complex due to the stigma attached to the disease. The homes will provide them a perfect platform to lead a normal life, without any discrimination," Shastri said.

National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) has marked Karnataka as a "highly prevalent state". The state has 250,000 HIV-infected people and 33,000 suffering from AIDS, as stated by KSAPS. But only 22,000 members are registered under the society.

According to experts at KSAPS, around 30 percent of children born to HIV infected mothers are at risk of contracting the disease if they are not part of the Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission  (PPCT) programmes.

"Sixty percent of HIV-infected mothers in the state have no access to PPCT,"  said an official of KSAPS. An estimated 2.5 million people in India are said to be living with AIDS, the third largest AIDS figure in the world.

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