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HIV-affected kids make MPs emotional
Published on 9 Jul. 2009 11:33 PM IST
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It was an event that deeply moved some Indian parliamentarians, including Minister of State for Rural Development Agatha Sangma, when nearly 50 HIV positive children Thursday urged them to put an end to the stigma they face by passing the AIDS bill. “How long can we live with stigma and discrimination,” asked a 14-year-old boy, who contracted the disease from his parents, leaving Sangma emotional. Sangma, the youngest union minister, was candid as well as realistic in her response. “I am new to the field and have never interacted with people affected by the disease. It’s a kind of awareness for me, but I assure you that I am trying to convince my colleagues to table the bill as soon as possible,” she said. She and a few other parliamentarians were interacting here with HIV positive kids at an event organised by a voluntary organisation, called Plan India. “I am a little overwhelmed. I will go back and do my best to push forward the bill,” Sangma said, after listening attentively to the children and their demands. Expressing the same opinion, another parliamentarian and former labour minister Oscar Fernandes said: “The stigma against HIV positive people is like modern day untouchability.” He said he is in favour of the well being of HIV-afflicted people. The children were referring to a bill that is waiting to be tabled in the parliament for over three years. The bill was framed by the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) in collaboration with several expert groups in the country. Among other things, the bill underlines provisions to do away with the stigma attached to HIV-affected children and provide them education. It also protects the property rights of HIV-affected people. It has the provision for legal recognition of children below 18 years of age as guardians if they are looking after their HIV positive parents. To a question from a girl whose parents are infected with the AIDS virus, A. Sampath, a parliamentarian from Kerala, said: “I am in favour of the bill. We will try to push this bill as it will have a great impact on the lives of thousands of people.” Sampath said he was in favour of more such interactions across the country to create awareness and invited the organizers to hold such a programme in Kerala. India is home to 2.5 million HIV positive people, of whom over 70,000 are children below the age of 15. Alka Lamba, a young Congress leader, said that she would try to arrange meetings of HIV positive kids with President Pratibha Patil and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Film director Nagesh Kukunoor and cricketer Virendra Sehwag too interacted with the children and pledged their support to their cause.

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