India: Communities Rally Around HIV/AIDS Widows
January 7, 2003
In India, Manpreet, a trucker's widow in Rampura Phool in western Punjab, and three of her four daughters, tested HIV-positive after her husband died of suspected AIDS. The local school expelled her elder girls; her infant daughter died; and her father-in-law threw her out. Forced to live with three children in her father's one-room house, Manpreet found help through the Rampura Phool Mohalla Development Committee, the town's elected body. "What is the use of all their fancy posters and speeches on HIV/AIDS when they have no mechanism to help someone like Manpreet?" asked P.S. Mannu, the committee's leader.Adapted from:
Mannu sought support from the Joint Action Council, a New Delhi-based organization specializing in HIV/AIDS legal rights issues. JAC leader Purushottaman Mulloli said, "Manpreet's case ... only confirms ... that the millions of dollars that are pouring into the country ... are only helping to create scare and panic within local communities."
Mulloli said a "misguided" campaign is creating ostracism and social unrest when villagers are forced to undergo testing. Truckers are marginalized because it is believed they know where to get the cheapest sex along their routes.
Another problem is unreliable testing. Amritsar resident Gurinder Singh became suicidal after testing HIV-positive at a pharmaceutical company's lab. A doctor friend encouraged him to be re-tested in New Delhi; those tests were negative. Singh petitioned the National AIDS Control Organization to stop its aggressive policy until more reliable tests are developed.
Choci inhabitant Kaushalya and her daughter tested HIV-positive five years ago at a government medical college. A trucker's widow, Kaushalya was forced to abort her son, and her family and village were boycotted for years. A second test in 2000 showed neither she nor her daughter were HIV-positive.
NACO offers free condoms, subsidized testing and literature, but has earmarked none of its $60 million annual World Bank funding to care for truckers' widows and children. Thus the panchayat, elected village bodies, are left to care for the families.
Inter Press Service
12.31.02; Puran Singh
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.