Widow forced to break tradition, cremate AIDS victim husband

April 9th, 2008 - 4:07 pm ICT by admin  

Cuttack, April 9 (IANS) A woman was forced to break tradition and cremate her husband after relatives and neighbours refused to help out for fear of contracting AIDS from the dead man. Dambur Sethi, 43, of Kalyanapur village in Orissa’s Cuttack district, some 100 km from state capital Bhubaneswar contracted AIDS two years ago while working as a plumber in Mumbai.

He died in his village Monday leaving behind his wife Surita and a 12-year-old daughter Suriya. The names of the widow and the daughter have been changed.

After the death of Dambur, Surita urged relatives and neighbours to carry the body to the nearby cremation ground.

But most of them refused to touch the body.

Surita told IANS: “I was forced to cremate the dead body near our house with the help of some local educated people.” Touching or carrying an AIDS patient does not lead to an infection.

By traditional Hindu custom, women do not go to cremation grounds; a male heir or a close male relative performs the last rites.

“My daughter and I are now facing ostracism from the villagers,” Surita added.

“We have decided to provide all help to the family members of the AIDS victim. We will first provide free rice and other items for two weeks to them,” said Jitendra Satapathy, sarpanch (village council chief).

According to a government study in January, Orissa has 8,502 HIV-positive people.

The number of AIDS patients is 916 of which the government is giving drugs to 800 people in its special health care centres - the Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) centres.

Most of the patients are poor.

Despite initiatives by the government and efforts by non-government organisations, many victims and their family members are facing ostracism in several parts of the state, a social activist said.

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