Documentary film ‘Nambikkai' sensitizes young minds to HIV/AIDS

It was a serious subject for a sultry afternoon. Celebrations and entertainments mark Children's Day every year but this November 14 drove home a message for the middle school students of Union Christian School. ‘Nambikkai' (Hope), an eight-and-a-half-minute-long documentary, was screened on the occasion. The movie, which depicted the struggle of a 12-year-old boy suffering from HIV-AIDS, talked about treating HIV-positive children with dignity and giving them the right to education.

Behind ‘Nambikkai' is the effort of A. Vivekananth, biotechnology student at Sri Krishna College of Arts and Science, Coimbatore.

A real-life incident of discrimination forced Vivekananth to put his thoughts into a screenplay. He had always wished to sensitize society to HIV/AIDS and discrimination. His experience with NSS and knowledge of street plays helped him to focus on the subject and come up with the movie.

When Vivekananth narrated the story, 15 like-minded students came forward to support the project. In the story, 12-year-old Ashok's parents commit suicide because of discrimination and he faces the same at the hands of his grandmother. Later, he fights a steely battle and wins it with the help of his uncle. Transgenders Shilpa and Karthik Priya helped Vivekananth with video and editing. Apart from the film screening, Union Christian School and Vaigai Network of Positive People shared some heart-wrenching facts about HIV gathered at in a recent study conducted by Positive Women Network and the Centre for Advocacy and Research among children in Tamil Nadu.

According to the study, 50 per cent of students don't disclose their health status fearing discrimination and 34 per cent of the children face discrimination after disclosing their HIV-positive status, while 12 per cent of the respondents lose interest in continuing their education. Surprisingly, it was also found that either the headmaster or teacher becomes the source of discrimination for 94 per cent of children.

The programme also highlighted the laws that protect children's right to free and compulsory education.

“Children living with HIV cannot be denied their right to education and it can be upheld only if these laws are implemented,” says Iyyappan, President, Vaigai Network of Positive People.

R. Sridharan, Sub-judge, District Legal Services Authority, was the chief guest at the event.