Today's Paper

"Affected children missing from policymakers' minds"



Aarti Dhar

About 40,000 of them in India need care, medication: Sharmila Tagore

Efforts on to set up a trust for affected children NACO in the process of mapping the children with the help of Global Fund

TORONTO: Bollywood star of yesteryear and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) goodwill ambassador Sharmila Tagore has called for inclusion of affected children in the policies for HIV and AIDS treatment.

Speaking here at the XVI International AIDS Conference, Ms. Tagore said it was rather surprising that children were missing from the minds of the policymakers and pharmaceutical companies. ``Estimates have shown that there are close to 40,000 HIV-infected children in India, who need care and medication,'' she said and pointed out that HIV children were missing from the ongoing conference.

Partnership

Ms. Tagore met several Non-Resident Indians here and discussed the possibility of raising funds through the Indo-Canadian partnership for setting up a trust for HIV infected children.

The partnership is formally expected to be announced in the next two weeks outside Toronto, where there is a large Indian community.

``We are trying to set up a trust for HIV infected children that would take care of their education, healthcare and related issues,'' said Sujatha Rao, Director-General of the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO). A concept paper would soon be drafted to establish the trust that would attract donations and seek leaders' support, she said.

NACO mapping process

Ms. Rao said the NACO had a list of 10,000 HIV positive children and it was in the process of mapping the children with the help of Global Fund. It would be over within the next five years, covering 65,000 children. The NACO would receive drugs from the Clinton Foundation that had trained doctors to treat the infected children.

Ms. Tagore called upon religious leaders to help in the fight against HIV/AIDS. It was equally important for the Government to include young people in policy-making decisions, as they formed a huge percentage of the population and most vulnerable to the disease. ``As parents, we also need to protect our children by giving them the right values and competencies. AIDS is all about giving roots (values) and wings (competencies)."

Pointing out that abstinence was wonderful and being faithful would be excellent, Ms. Tagore said condoms and behavioural changes were also important for checking the spread of the disease. ``Faith alone cannot help. India is a traditional country and we do not condone pre-marital sex. It is also a fact that we often do not know what our children are up to,'' she said.

Talking about her experiences with HIV orphaned children, Ms. Tagore said they all wanted to stay within their families and not in separate institutions. ``Since India has a history of joint families, there is much more than sympathy we can give them.''



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