1,000 of them to watch the festivities from a special platform

Medical Education Minister S.A. Ramdas has been criticised for inviting 1,000 children with HIV to watch Dasara festivities on October 23. Many people have said that by revealing the identity of children with HIV, the Minister will only add to the problems they are already facing.

Health and Family Welfare Minister Aravind Limbavalli in a letter to Mr. Ramdas, said that revealing the status of children with HIV at a public event is in violation of the guidelines set by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).

Sources close to Mr. Limbavalli told The Hindu that he had asked Mr. Ramdas to drop the plan as it would amount to violation of the children’s fundamental human rights.

According to the sources, Mr. Limbavalli said in the letter that at a time when children with HIV are already facing stigma, it would not be fair to present them at a public event on a special platform.

Children identified

Although Mr. Ramdas had initially asked officials from the Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society (KSAPS) to identify three to four children with HIV from each district and send a list, the officials reportedly expressed their objection to it and said it would amount to violation of the children’s rights. “With the Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society coming under the purview of the Health Department, the Minister’s stand was corroborated by the officials,” the sources said.

“Now, Mr. Ramdas has got the Karnataka Network of Positive People (KNP +) to identify children with HIV. They have done it with the consent of the children’s guardians,” a senior official from KSAPS said.

Mr. Ramdas, who admitted that he had received Mr. Limbavalli’s letter, said children with HIV would be part of a group of 2,000 special children who will attend Dasara festivities. “There will not be any discrimination as children with HIV will be part of the group,” Mr. Ramdas told The Hindu on Monday.

Minister Ramdas said it would be a rare occasion for the special children, including the children with HIV, to witness Dasara festivities from a special platform.

“The children would also get to watch the Jamboo Savari and the grand Dasara finale on Vijayadashami on October 24. They would also get to tour the city,” he added.

HIV activist Parveen, who works as a support staff for Positive Women’s Network, said such an identification of children with HIV would definitely result in discrimination.

“If someone in their village watches these children on TV or even gets to know they had been taken to Mysore for special Dasara programme, the health status of these children will be out in the open. They may not be allowed to mingle or even play with other children,” Ms. Parveen added.

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