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Ostracized HIV-affected Widow Turns to Begging

An HIV positive widow has been reduced to begging for survival in Orissa after villagers ostracized her and her son out of fear that the disease can be passed on by social contact.

And after her own parents also refused to provide support to her, Sukanti (name changed), only 30 years of age, and her younger son Dipun, 4, now beg for food in Mehendipur village in Cuttack district, 50 km from here.

Life became hell after her husband Sarat Das, a plumber in Mumbai, died of AIDS March 15 last year in this eastern Indian coastal state. Sukanti realized then that she was HIV positive, and so was her younger son.

Villagers and even her in-laws immediately began boycotting her. Dilip Kumar Parida, a social activist, said the locals believed that AIDS is transmitted even if one interacts with an infected person.

Abandoned by her in-laws, a villager said, Sukanti and her son took refuge in a deserted grain storehouse.

"The villagers did not allow her to use the common tube well and stopped their own children from playing with her infected son," Parida told IANS.

She also became an object of disdain at her own parents' house at Nagaspur.

Although Sukanti's father Biswanath Das accepted her disease-free elder son, he refused to give shelter to her and her infected younger son.

This was just the beginning of Sukanti's ordeal. She was forced to work as a labourer for food after charity gradually eased.

Eventually, unable to work due to deteriorating health, she was reduced to begging. She is unable to buy medicines because she cannot afford them at Rs.500 a month.

No one is ready to help her, not even the local administration. Bramarabara Ojha , block developement officer (BDO) of local Nischintakoili block, pleaded ignorance about the case. But he promised to investigate and submit a report to his seniors.


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