Tuesday was a happy day for a bunch of HIV-affected children who visited the airport, finds Sunitha Sekar

Laughter and happiness knifed through the air, at Chennai airport, as a bunch of children watched a Bombardier take off in all its glory.

Kathambari, 14, leaned over the grille of the air traffic control (ATC) tower and watched in awe, along with her friends, as flights departed and landed at the airport, on Tuesday.

She was among the 26 children with HIV, from Faith Home for Children Overcoming HIV and AIDS in Adoni town, Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh, who visited the airport on Tuesday. It was their idea of sightseeing. “I’m just too excited to say anything. This is the first time I’m seeing an aircraft in close proximity. I wish I could fly one of these, someday,” she said pointing to the Bombardier.

“This is the first time these children, aged between five and 15, have stepped out of our Home in Adoni. We are wary of taking them out because of the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS,” said 50-year-old Hannah Nesamani, a member of the Home.

The children undertook a brief visit to Thiruvananthapuram and Madurai before coming to Chennai. In Thiruvananthapuram, the staff member of a hotel they stayed in asked them to pay an additional Rs. 5,000 to wash the bedsheets used by the children, said Ms. Nesamani.

“These children are pretty healthy owing to the treatment we provide,” said Ms. Nesamani. Just as she completed her sentence, an Air India flight from Delhi received a warm welcome from the children.

“I never expected to see anything like this in my life. If not a long-distance journey, I wish to at least board an aircraft and go around the runway for a little while,” said 10-year-old D. Krishnan.

(Names of the children have been changed.)

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