State will help children of parents infected with HIV

State will help children of  parents infected with HIV

 The State government has conceived a plan to help children of parents with HIV/AIDS. The new programme aims to give the children access to financial assistance for education and other expenses till the age of 18, regardless of their economic background. 

One condition to obtain the benefits, however, is that parents should disclose their HIV/AIDS status. Drawn up by the Department of Women and Child Development, with technical support from the Karnataka Health Promotion Trust (KHPT), the programme has been in effect from the 2011-12 financial year and already covers 15 districts.

 Another 13 districts are expected to be included during the 2012-13  financial year. Two districts, Bangalore (Urban) and Chikkaballapur, which have been left out out of the programme, are also likely to be covered in future. At the current time, financial assistance is to be provided under three categories. Eligible children will be given Rs 500 a year for education after reaching the age of six.  Another Rs 750 per month will be given for foster care to children without parents. Rs 650 per month per child will also be given to parents to provide nutritious food and help the child adopt a healthy life style.

In all, an eligible child is to get no more than Rs 9,600 a year. “The plan will ensure a better future for children of unfortunate parents. There is no dearth of funds,” said KHPT Programme Officer Srikanthe Gowda. Last year a budgetary provision of Rs one crore was available. This year it has been doubled, with an assurance from the financial department to increase funds if needed. According to sources, there are 70,000 children who have been infected or affected by HIV in the State.

The majority are in Belgaum, Bagalkot and Bijapur districts, in North Karnataka. Sources said that the total number of orphaned and vulnerable children who are eligible for the scheme number about 720.  People infected with HIV/AIDS in the district are estimated to number about 15,000. About 8,000 of them are said to have been using anti-retroviral treatments.Deputy Director of Women and Children Development, Ratna Kalamdani said that a total of 346 eligible children have been identified in the district — out of which 132 had been selected in the first year, and have been given assistance amounting to a total of Rs.11.25 lakh. 

 For the current year, another 147 may be covered. She said that if the children move to other districts for whatever reason they will continue to come under the programme in that district. Dropouts, however, will not be eligible for education assistance.  “After initial hesitation in the first year, more and more parents are now volunteering to take advantage of the benefits,” Kalamdani added. Officials said that the financial assistance will be credited to a joint bank account shared by both child and parent or guardian. Department officials will also ensure that children using the benefits are enrolled in school. The programme also aims to address the discrimination and stigma attached to wards with HIV/AIDS-infected individuals. 

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