30 November 2011
By Vijay Singh
Stigma Continues To Ruin Lives Even Though Figures Show Decline In HIV Cases Across The Country
Radha and her sister–in–law Meena (names changed) sport broad smiles as they go about their business of cooking food for themselves and other workers at a poultry farm in Vengurla taluka of Sindhudurg. Their five children run through the farm, chase hens and play cheerfully like most kids their age.
However, things were very different for the two widowed women and their kids just two months ago. Radha and Meena lost their husbands to AIDS a few years ago. A few years later, Radha and one of her three children—15–year–old daughter—tested positive for HIV as did Meena and one of two her kids.
"Around two months ago, my father–in–law, Balkrishna Parab, threw me, his daughter and our children out of the house at Pondaghat village in Kankavli taluka (about 460 km from Mumbai) because we had tested positive for HIV," said 37–year–old Meena. "We were forced to beg with our kids."
"We contracted the disease from our husbands, so how can we be blamed for it," asked Meena whose 14–yearold son is HIV positive.
The widows, who were shunned by their own family, were adopted by the poultry farm owner, Pandurang Kurade (54), whom they respectfully call 'baba' (father).
Kurade thanks the local media for highlighting the plight of the widows and their children. "On October 25, I saw a photograph of the family sleeping on a dusty road in a regional newspaper. I was shocked to learn that none of the villagers had come forward to rehabilitate them and decided to adopt them," said Kurade. He has secured admission for two of the girls in commerce stream of a junior college and is trying to admit two of the younger kids in a local school.
Senior district officials of Sindhudurg recently felicitated Kurade for being a 'Good Samaritan'.
The women weren't even allowed to take shelter on the premises of the village temple. An influential villager, who had donated Rs 51,000 to the temple, took objection to the w i d ow s taking shelter in the house of the gods.