Documentary brings out plight of children affected by AIDS

Documentary brings out plight of children affected by AIDS

"Both my parents loved me very much. I was the apple of their eyes. But unfortunately both died, just months apart, two years ago. Doctors say both had HIV-AIDS," Savithri (name changed), who too is HIV positive and currently staying with her grandmother in Bangalore, told IANS.

According to experts working in the field of HIV-AIDS, children like Savithri, who have lost both their parents due to HIV-AIDS and are themselves infected by it, are the worst victims of the disease prevalent in the country for the last two decades.

Their plight is well brought out in the heart-rendering Kannada documentary "A Generation Challenged". The film was released by Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa at the inauguration ceremony of Ashodaya Academy, a HIV-AIDS awareness centre said to be the first of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region. The centre will be located in Mysore, 139 km from here.

The 18-minute film has been produced by Ashodaya Samiti, a Mysore-based organisation working for the welfare and health issues of sex workers in Karnataka and Infact Films, a film production house based in Bangalore.

"Cinema has always been a strong medium to pass on social messages. As  a large number of children are becoming orphans with both their parents suffering from AIDS, a huge social problem is building up and it is our responsibility to deal with the issue," said Sushena Reza Paul, adviser to Ashodaya Samiti.

The film looks deeper into the crisis, as to how children of infected couples not only lose their parents but are forced to become homeless. "Moreover, the film shows how the orphan children have to deal with social stigma attached to the disease at a tender age. These kids are ostracised for being HIV positive and many a time denied the right to education and right to live a normal life," Paul said.

"The documentary is the first effort in visualising the impact of paediatric AIDS in the country. The documentary deals with paediatric AIDS and its consequences on the children and the dependent population. It also looks at two decades of HIV prevalence in India," said Bhagyalakshmi, secretary of Ashodaya Samiti.

The film has been conceived and researched by Bangalore-based journalists Maya Jaideep and Kestur Vasuki, who are working on the impact of HIV on children. The film will soon be screened across Karnataka, as part of an awareness campaign on HIV-AIDS by Ashodaya Samiti. The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) has termed Karnataka as a "highly prevalent state".

The state has 2,50,000 HIV-infected people and 33,000 suffering from AIDS, according to the Karnataka State Aid Prevention Society (KSAPS). But only 22,000 of them are registered under the society.

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

However, around 60 percent of HIV- infected mothers in the state have no access to PPCT, a KSAPS official said.