TAMIL NADU

HIV positive stand up for rights

UNITED WE STAND: The founder-president of the Indian Network for People living with HIV/AIDS, K.K. Abraham (left), with members of the Network, at the rally demanding access to treatment, nutrition, information, employment and other resources, held i n Chennai on Thursday. Photo: Shaju John

UNITED WE STAND: The founder-president of the Indian Network for People living with HIV/AIDS, K.K. Abraham (left), with members of the Network, at the rally demanding access to treatment, nutrition, information, employment and other resources, held i n Chennai on Thursday. Photo: Shaju John  

Rally highlights inadequate prevention, care and support delivery systems

Staff Reporter

CHENNAI: ``I am sure you are the right person to give strength and happiness to HIV patients. With best wishes, Kalam.'' Asha Ramaiah of the Indian Network for People living with HIV/AIDS(INP+), living with HIV since 1995, was even more amazed when this mail was followed by a phone call from the First Citizen himself. ``He asked me for permission to use my name and message,'' she says, touched by the fact that he cared about her privacy.

The rally held by the INP+ from Munroe Statue to the State Guest House in Chepauk, though, was about the courage to face the world and demand acceptance as an HIV positive person. ``Everything from getting a house for rent to retaining employment is difficult for us,'' Ramaiah told a press conference later.

Rally theme

The theme of the rally was `Is access real or a dream?' This highlighted the missing or inadequate prevention, care and support delivery services, said K.K. Abraham, founder-president of the INP+.

Shabana Patel said that, of 7.5 lakh people who needed anti-retroviral drug treatment, only 15,000 were receiving it. She hoped that the National AIDS Control Programme Phase 3 would address the gap.

Bobby Singh explained that the situation of the person living with HIV in the North-East was very difficult both due to the epidemic spreading through drug users' shared needles and the insurgency making the passage of the required medication difficult.

Daisy David highlighted achievements of the Tamil Nadu Government in spreading awareness and enabling networking.

``Today we showed our faces to the public because we want them to accept us for who we are,'' she said.

Asha's message to the President was not very different.

``Only when I had to face HIV, I realised the need to stand up and voice my opinion. I will be remembered for the courage and for my efforts to share the light I acquired in the midst of struggle.''

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