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Deccan Herald (India): Living with HIV & without a home

Living with HIV & without a home
by Deccan Herald, August 4, 2011

Unlike most youngsters her age who are confused and worried about their future, 19-year-old Sarika has an extra burden of finding a ”home” for herself, once she completes her II PUC.

It wouldn’t have been all that difficult had she been a normal person. But Sarika is HIV-positive. The hostel — run by an HIV-positive network — in Belgaum where she had been staying for the past four years, shelters positive children only till 18 years of age. So, that practically leaves Sarika homeless.

Ambika, a 15-year-old orphan, was thrown out of a government school at Gundlupet in Chamarajnagar when her teachers came to know she was HIV positive. She is now employed.

Stigma, lack of support, and insensitivity towards children living with HIV in the education sector were in focus at a meeting organised by the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) and other NGOs here on Thursday.

Eighteen-year-old Bhavana told I F Magi, ex officio under the secretary of the Education Department (planning), that teachers in government and private schools must be made aware of HIV as they would, in turn, educate and dispel myths about the scourge among parents of students.

She also stressed the need for counsellors at schools and Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) centres to be more sensitive towards HIV-positive children.

Sarika spoke of the need for shelter homes for orphaned HIV-positive girls aged above 18, addressing the issue to Eshrath Afsa, deputy director, Department of Women and Child Welfare.

Officials promised to issue a circular and meet representatives from the community to chalk out an effective way to provide nutrition, counselling and care to children living with HIV, without disclosing their identity. Magi promised to appoint a nodal officer from the department to interact with the community.

Afsa also agreed to consult with the “positive” networks before implementing the schemes. “Implementation of the Rs two-crore scheme for providing nutrition and other benefits to positive children by the State government was started in a hurry last year. But we will definitely review the programme in consultation with you to make it more effective and to protect child’s confidentiality, this year,” she said.

A dossier prepared by Centre For Advocacy and Research on stigma and discrimination faced by children living with HIV-AIDS, especially in educational settings, was released by Neena Naik, Chairperson, KSCPCR.

“We will request the government to form a task force as mandated in the policy so that violation of rights of these marginalised children will not happen,’’ she added.

 Rs 200 crore for affected children 
Child Fund India, an NGO, has announced a grant of Rs 200 crore for projects that provide quality education to youth from marginalised communities and health services to children living with HIV/AIDS in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Funds will be mainly utilised in the northern districts of Karnataka, south-western belt and the districts with high prevalence of AIDS in Andhra Pradesh.

Special projects will be taken up to support children living with HIV/AIDS in Andhra Pradesh and children from the Devadasi communities in Karnataka.

(Names of HIV-positive children changed to protect identity)


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