Origin: CPK+ came into being from a belief that those who have been diagnosed as HIV-positive too have a right to be heard. The year was 1998.

The whole world was slowly getting acquainted with the ‘dreadful' disease then. Quite a bit of confusion still existed. . It was just a few years earlier that the legendary ‘Magic' Johnson shocked the world by declaring himself as HIV-infected. The entire country pessimistically heaved a sigh when promising fashion designer Rohit Khosla followed suit. People were clueless. The medical fraternity was looking for proper and adequate guidelines. And, the worst part of it all was the social stigma attached to the disease. It was not only the patients who were an ostracised lot but the entire family faced discrimination. Some were thrown out of their families. Students were expelled. Jobs were denied. Society dealt with them ruthlessly. Many had to commit suicide. Several of them concealed their status. At the end of the day, the scenario was turning from to bad to worse.

“We began at a time when the level of awareness about HIV remained sub-zero. The general notion was that even a handshake with a patient could transmit the virus. The cost of medicines was prohibitively high and denying treatment at the hospitals was a common occurrence,” reveals Joseph (his real name!), one of the 12 founder-members of CPK+. The attempt to establish a collective in Kochi was inspired by a similar initiative called Indian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS which got under way at Chennai in 1997, he remembers.

The members of CPK+ acknowledge the initial support provided by IMA Blood Bank in Kochi and the guidance offered by Dr V.P. Kuriyipe, Dr. Varghese Mathew and Dr. Rama among others. The role played by Kerala State AIDS Control Society (KSACS) was also instrumental in establishing and fuelling the growth of CPK+. On submission, its project proposal was immediately approved by KSACS as it was a first-of-its-kind in Kerala and began functioning in a month's time. Men, women and children included, as of now, this exclusive body of HIV-positive people has over 6,000 members.

Activities:Ever since its inception, CPK+ has been upbeat in terms of activities and also in addressing the concerns of its target group. In a run up to the formation of CPK+, a one-day workshop was held at Kochi, which came up with startling revelations. That was just the beginning. The members began their activities by pasting stickers at hospitals announcing the helpline number which was flooded with calls from across the State in no time. Soon after, the issue of distributing medicines was taken up with A. K. Antony, the then Chief Minister of Kerala, who sanctioned Rs. 2.5 crore for distribution of medicines through five medical colleges in Kerala. Through their constant interventions, the Government established five ART Centres in 2004. By 2005-06, all the 14 districts if Kerala had ART Centres.

Impact:The perseverance of CPK+ has brought in refreshing changes in the lives of several thousands of people inflicted with HIV/AIDS in Kerala. They could instil confidence in people to speak out publicly without any inhibitions. They introduced a concept called ‘Positive Speaking' for the first time in the country, which involved information sharing by those with HIV at awareness programmes by revealing their own identity.

Today CPK+ is also engaged in imparting life skill education and Income Generation Programmes (IGP) for their female members. In the process, they have come to assert that a normal life is still possible for people with HIV/AIDS and that a positive attitude is all that matters.

Getting in touch:To know more about CPK+ and their programmes dial itshelpline 0484-4025398/99 Email: cpkplus@gmail.com Website: www.cpkplus.org

Keywords: CPK+AIDSHIV positive

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012