Organisations working with children infected with HIV have suggested appointing a paediatrician, a gynaecologist and a child counsellor in all district headquarter hospitals in the State.

The members representing various positive network organisations, who met here on Wednesday, discussed the future of the affected children and various issues, including nutritional needs, education, development of skills and their right to property left to them by their parents.

The meeting, organised by World Vision, also discussed the Rights of HIV-affected children and the need to move the HIV Bill in Parliament at the earliest. The proposed legislation would address issues of discrimination, inclusion in State health insurance scheme and universal access to medicines.

The representatives wanted the government to mainstream HIV/AIDS treatment and integrate it into the healthcare policy at the State and national level, as has been done in other developed countries.

Thamizh, who runs a positive children's home in Tiruchi, said positive adolescents needed counselling on issues such as marriage and friendship. Young women needed to visit a gynaecologist as they were not comfortable speaking to a male doctor, she said.

With more children being brought into the fold of antiretroviral therapy, it is necessary for the government to provide second line therapy in government hospitals, said Noorie of South India Positive Network. She sought tests for viral load and viral resistance besides the CD 4 test.

The participants felt it was also necessary to take up the issue of drug pricing with pharmaceutical companies. While the positive networks were “still talking to the government about opportunistic infection, the need for second line antiretroviral therapy centres has risen in all district headquarters hospital,” said K. Senthil Kumar of Indian Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS, calling for a tool kit of best nutrition practice for children.

Orphaned positive children struggled with law suits and delay in justice in getting the property left to them by their parents, said Satya, who runs a home for children in Krishnagiri.

This delay could be addressed by adequately staffing the free legal aid centres, she said. There was also a need to specifically mention the rights and protection of children with HIV/AIDS in the Juvenile Justice Act, said Kumudha, who runs a home in Chennai.

G. Karunanidhi, coordinator of Tamilnadu Network of Positive People, who spoke of the UNICEF-sponsored pilot project in Krishnagiri, said the example should provide an impetus for the government to take up more such initiatives.

The project had nourished not just the children but also the community, he said. “Local businessmen have created a fund to support the nutritional and educational requirements of a few hundred children. Such examples could be replicated elsewhere with the support of the State government,” Mr. Karunanidhi added.