07 May, 2010
one of the two HIV–affected children whose poignant tale of social neglect stirred the whole nation and prompted a renewed fight against the stigma attached with AIDS, died at a hospital here on Thursday. Bency leaves behind her grieving younger sibling, Benson, and grandmother Salamma.
Bency was admitted to the hospital a week ago after her condition deteriorated. She was Class VIII student at a government school in Adichanallur panchayat of Kerala’s Kollam district.
Health secretary Usha Titus said the child had developed measles and this had aggravated the situation. “The body was taken to Kollam and will be cremated on Friday,” she added.
The children had contracted the virus from their parents and were orphaned in 2000 after the death of their mother. Their father, C K Chandy, who was employed at a private hospital in Mumbai, had died in 1997. It was then left to the grandparents, Geevergheese and Salamma, to take care
of the kids. A paltry sum that Geevergheese, an exserviceman, received as monthly pension was their only source of livelihood. Things turned bad after the death of the parents, and the kids faced ostracism at school and in their neighbourhood. They were turned away from five schools as official intervention and even public outcry failed to convince apprehensive parents of their schoolmates.
In September 2003, then President APJ Abdul Kalam took up their cause while on a visit to the state and then Union health minister Sushma Swaraj hugged and posed with them at a press conference. As Salamma recounted later, that was enough to shatter a lot of myths and since then, there was a visible change in attitude towards the kids. The children were finally readmitted to a government school. But as fate would have it, Geevergheese died in 2007, pushing the family into further penury.