30 June 2012
How do we live after 18? This is the question posed by adolescents who have tested positive for HIV, and are on the threshold of being denied care by non–government organisations (NGO) and State–run shelters, simply because they are turning 18.
Many of these youths have already lost their parents to AIDS and have been abandoned by relatives because of the stigma of having an HIV–infected person in the family. Many now fear they will be forced to fend for themselves.
Madhura (name changed), a 16–year–old HIV–positive girl, recently approached a social activist in the hope of finding a shelter and work after being abandoned by her relatives following the death of her grandmother who had cared for her after both her parents succumbed to AIDS years earlier. According to aid workers, Madhura is lucky, as she has two more years before the system will stop providing her help.
Aid workers admitted that NGO and governmental housing for infected adults was almost non–existent now. Mohammed Saifuddin, an activist at the Centre for Advocacy and Research, said there were no shelter homes for adult HIV–positive people.
"Policy–level decisions are required from the government to provide them accommodation as they are more vulnerable to exploitation," he said.
AIDS Prevention and Control Unit district supervisor K N Jahagirdar told Deccan Herald that HIV–positive youth will have to find some means to take care of themselves when external aid sources and support ends. Until that time, however, Jahagirdar said treatment and medication facilities will continue to be available from the government.
But with an increasing number of adolescents being classified as full–grown adults in the system, social activist Vijay More said measures have to be taken to care for them while controlling the spread of HIV.
"Humiliation and social abandonment could lead HIV–positive individuals to becoming frustrated and adopting wrong paths to live, which could pose threats to their well–being and society," he said.
Issues of stigma and discrimination of HIV–positive groups have been described as ‘rampant’ in the State. Information from the Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society shows that just 29 per cent of people were willing to care for their relatives with HIV, or purchase food and groceries from an infected person.