03 February 2011
By Mohsin Mulla
The nondescript Kodoli village, about 30km from Kolhapur city is perhaps the first in Maharashtra to formally adopt a resolution not to discriminate against HIV/AIDS patients in the village.
Inhabited by 45,000 villagers, there are 49 people, including a child, who are either HIV positive or suffering from AIDS. Of these, 16 are undergoing anti–retroviral treatment (ART) to check the deterioration in their health.
On January 26, the village adopted a special resolution directing all not to discriminate against the AIDS victims but to treat them fairly.
"Villagers should treat those suffering from HIV/ AIDS equally. The patients should not be held responsible for the infection. The villagers shall have the right to intervene in case anyone in the village is found discriminating against the patients," the resolution said. It added that the victimsshould not be denied their right over ancestral property.
The resolution was adopted at a special gram panchayat meeting, chaired by the sarpanch Manisha Gavade, in the presence of other gram panchayat members, Kolhapur district AIDS prevention and control officer Pravin Naik and the villagers.
Tushar Mali, a counsellor at the sub–district government hospital at Kodoli told DNA that while no cases of discrimination or maltreatment against HIV/AIDS patients have been reported from the village, the new initiative will help create awareness.
This initiative by the villagers was the result of an intense, fortnight–long drive undertaken by DM Bhosale, a faculty member of the Kolhapur–based Chhatrapati Shahu Institute of Business Education and Research and some students of the institute’s DK Shinde School of Social Work.
Welcoming the initiative, a 37–year–old HIV positive villager said that while there is no large–scale discrimination, "villagers generally avoid us."
Earlier, the gram panchayat staff would also maintain a distance, but ever since the resolution has been adopted, there’s been a change. "Now when I visit the gram panchayat office I get better treatment. There is a visible change in the attitude of the staff and villagers too," he said. Similar sentiments were expressed by a 22–year–old HIV positive villager who described it as a positive step that will help erase the stigma attached to AIDS patients.
The New Delhi–based NGO Centre for Advocacy and Research (Cfar) working for the rights of marginalised people like HIV positive people, single women and others, has welcomed this initiative.
"As far as we know, this is the first village in state to have adopted such a resolution in support of HIV/AIDS patients," Cfar’s district coordinator Anand Bakhade said.
He said the Kolhapur villagers’ resolve could be path–breaking as many HIV–affected women and children from rural families have been thrown out of their homes and have been denied their rights over property.
Kolhapur district, with 8,000 HIV positive and AIDS patients, ranks fifth in the state among high–risk areas after Mumbai, Pune, Sangli and Solapur.
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