‘Do you have HIV plus kid? Donate to orphanage’

May 30th, 2008 - 10:59 am ICT by admin  

By Sujeet Kumar

Raipur, May 30 (IANS) With HIV/AIDS patients continuing to face social stigma across India, an orphanage here has launched a state-wide campaign in Chhattisgarh to adopt and care for infected children up to 12 years of age. ‘Ashray rath’, a vehicle of the orphanage Gurukul Ashram, began travelling across the state’s rural and urban pockets May 23 with the banner, “Do you have HIV plus kid? Please donate to us, we will take better care of them.”

A four-member team of the Ashram led by its founder Narayan Rao, a low-income staffer with the state’s higher education department, will go to 17 out of the total 18 districts in Chhattisgarh.

It hopes to adopt 40 HIV infected kids, orphaned or otherwise, “who are languishing in isolation and neglect”.

“Since May 23, I have held dozens of street meetings in Raipur, Bilaspur, Korba, Raigarh, Janjgir and Jashpur and in each meeting I appealed to the people to give me the address of any child in the 0-12 age group who they know is infected with HIV,” Rao told IANS.

“So far I have identified four boys and two girls in Bilapsur district who have been shunned by their relatives. Now we are completing the formalities to absorb them in the 60-member Gurukul Ashram family where children are brought in from the interiors and live together with respect and affection.”

Rao, 40, said the rath would end its journey in the Maoist insurgency-hit Bijapur district.

He said even in industrialised districts like Janjgir, Korba, Raigarh and Bilaspur, people ask “what is HIV plus? Is it a company or a product which I am marketing?”

“Because of the rural people’s lack of knowledge about AIDS, I am not getting an encouraging response. Even at street meetings I have to spend a lot of time telling them what AIDS is and how it infects people.”

Government officials say the state has 470 confirmed AIDS patients and around 2,800 HIV positive people, but NGOs working in the health sector claim the figure is much higher as the state’s massive forested areas are inaccessible.

These interiors, mostly in the state’s southern region of Bastar and northern belt of Surguja, are dominated by Maoist guerrillas. As a result, government health workers hardly manage to register HIV/AIDS patients there.

India has around 2.5 million HIV/AIDS patients.

(Sujeet Kumar can be contacted at sujeet.k@ians.in)

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