Children living with HIV are in urgent need of food support and special focus under state schemes meant for poor and marginalised. Left alone with HIV claiming their parents, most are underweight, out of schools and forced into responsibilities of adulthood.
“I want to go to the school, but they won’t let me in,” said Lakshmi. The five-year-old was accompanied by her grandmother, who shared experiences of stigma and discrimination the child had to go through right from the birth. “She isn’t old enough to make sense of why she has to be away from the school and other children,” the grandmother added.
“I have been taking care of my aunt who has psychiatric problem. I don’t have the money my uncle asked me for transferring ownership of land that I inherited from my father,” said Dinesh, 13, to a jury, late last year, led by Shanta Sinha with National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
“Can you please help me with that?” he asked the government officials present. Many of the children attending the hearing were orphans and dependent on grandparents who are themselves are fighting to access their entitlements, like the Antyodya scheme.
“The stories that emerged in today’s hearing are also a reflection of how the society has pushed these children into premature adulthood. We are committed to continue to raise these issues with each state,” said Babu Mathew, then the Country Director of ActionAid India.
Nutrition and inclusion
Amidst claims from the government of having numerous schemes and programs that include care for persons living with HIV & AIDS, the jury members raised serious concerns on timely and non-discriminatory access for the children living with HIV & AIDS.
Some of the key demands:
Children living with elderly care givers need immediate attention;
ICDS needs to extend to children over the age of six;
SSA too should have great stress on providing nutritious food;
Need to put children and their care givers under the purview of existing schemes like Antyodya;
Transportation costs to the medical centres can often not be borne by such families – provide bus passes;
Legal aid in cases where the children were not given their rightful inheritance;Discrimination or cost of medical attention forces children to leave schools. They need scholarships;
Need for training and sensitisation of teachers and care providers at Anganwadis;Psycho-social support for children subjected to severe stigma and creating a child protection mechanism.
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