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Tamil Nadu Checks AIDS Spread

Top on the list of HIV/AIDS most-affected states, Tamil Nadu has managed to keep the numbers of infected from growing, thanks to a unique support programme// .

The Tamilnadu Aids Initiative (TAI) has in the two years of its existence become a model for other states to emulate. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Avahan scheme funds it.

Since the HIV virus was first discovered in India in 1986 in Tamil Nadu, the state today has about 240,000 people suffering from the infection.

India has almost six million people living with HIV/AIDS, according to a UNAIDS report. The stigma of AIDS is also intense in India.

At the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto in 2006, it was the story of Tamil Nadu's Asha and Elango that was highlighted.

Asha, a member of Indian Positive Network, married Elango, each knowing the other's HIV positive status. "For lifelong companionship and support," they explained.

However, like every traditional Indian family, Asha's mother-in-law wanted her to give birth. For this couple, the choice was difficult - the stigma of being a barren woman or that of their HIV status.

Every year, 70,000 to 100,000 HIV-positive women in India become pregnant, says I.S. Gilada of the AIDS Society of India.

Community support has consequently become the key word in AIDS prevention and control, say organisations like TAI.

TAI brought together in December 1,400 people comprising HIV-positive, AIDS affected, sex workers and transvestites on the same platform with healthcare providers, government and NGOs to demonstrate that networking mattered.

On the occasion, people like Meenakshi, HIV-positive and a TAI counsellor and spokesperson for the Tamil Nadu AIDS Control Society (TANSACS) and South Indian AIDS Action Programme, was honoured for helping set up the Society for Positive Mothers Development (SPMD) that has brought discriminated women
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