07 June 2010
By Shaju Philip Thiruvananthapuram
IN BENSON’S14yearsofexistence, theoneconstantcompanionhas beendeath.Apartfromhissister Bency.Lastmonth,helosthertoo.
The brother and sister, both HIVpositive, had attracted national attention in 2003 when they were denied admission in a local school in Kerala after the parents of other students protested. The siblings were only taken back after a public awareness drive, which included photo–ops with celebrities and film personalities, who hugged them to dis pel common apprehensions about the disease.
But just when they thought they had triumphed in the battle against discrimination, death snatched away Bency, 16. She had been admitted to a hospital with measles.
At their house at Kaithakuzhi in Kollam, Benson flips quietly through the pages of his sister’s funeral album as his grandmother Salamma, 57, sits motionless. In the last 13 years, AIDS has claimed three members of the family.
It all began when Salamma’s only daughter Princy married C K Chandy 17 years back. Chandy, who reportedly contracted the disease during his stay in Mumbai, died in 1997. Princy, who had been diagnosed HIV–positive by then, died three years later. The children, Benson and Bency, then came under the care of their grandparents
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