Indian Health Minister Hugs HIV-Positive Children in Attempt To Dispel Nation’s AIDS-Related Myths, Stigma
Indian Health Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday publicly embraced two HIV-positive children -- Bency and Benson Chandy, who have been ostracized in their village in southern India -- saying that the country must learn that HIV is not spread through casual contact, BBC News reports (BBC News, 9/29). Swaraj said that the country still has a lot to learn about HIV/AIDS, adding, "Society should be made aware that touching and hugging AIDS children would not cause the spread of the disease." The Indian Ministry of Health & Family Welfare estimates that 4.58 million people, or an estimated 0.8% of the population, is HIV-positive. Swaraj also announced that the government-run condom company Hindustan Latex Limited will cover the cost of treatment for the Chandy siblings (Associated Press, 9/29). The children were born HIV-positive, and their parents died of AIDS-related causes in 2000 (Associated Press, 9/29). The Indian government is currently paying for the siblings' education, including the cost of the children's three private teachers. The children were rejected from at least four schools over the past two years and were expelled from the Kaithakuzhi Upper Primary School despite securing places after a day-long fast with their grandfather, Geevarghese Johny. The children in March were expelled and given private tutors after the parents of the school's other 115 students refused to allow their children to attend classes until Bency and Benson were expelled (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/6). In an Associated Press interview, Johny said that he was "grateful" for the government's gesture toward the siblings (Associated Press, 9/29).
More information on AIDS in India is available online through kaisernetwork.org's Issue Spotlight on HIV/AIDS.