New Delhi/ Chennai, Dec 1: A group of HIV positive children were brought all the way from Mumbai to New Delhi in a special red-painted Air India flight, symbolic of the movement against AIDS.
The event, the first of its kind in the world, was received by Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ambumani Ramadoss.
Lack of awareness and a widespread stigma have contributed to the paranoia surrounding the virus in India. HIV patients are meted out rude treatment and are often looked down upon.
The children said the main aim of their visit was to generate respect for AIDS patients.
Ruchika, a 14-year-old, said, “People suffering from AIDS should be accepted and loved by society. They must not be treated rudely."
Meanwhile, politicians played a cricket match with HIV positive people in Chennai in a bid to promote greater interaction with them.
The Indian Community Welfare Organisation organised the event.
Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK), Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders played in the match.
The event was a win-win situation for both HIV positive people and other members of society.
"I hope the demonstration, for all of the viewers, all of the people watching television and other ways. These are very normal people suffering from a very unfortunate disease," said David T Hooper, the American Consular General in Chennai.
HIV infected people said they believed the people's perception about them is changing.
"We felt happy and comfortable playing with politicians, Ten years ago, this situation was not there. But now, there is a change, all people, NGOs, society and everybody stand by us," said Daizy, an HIV infected participant.
AIDS has acquired the status of endemic in India -- where over 2.5 million people are thought to be living with HIV/AIDS -- and putting millions of more lives at risk.
According to the latest UN figures on AIDS, the global prevalence of HIV AIDS has levelled off in part due to effective HIV programs. Still, in 2007, there are 33.2 million people infected with the disease -- about 30.8 million adults and 2.5 million children.
Latest figures show 2.5 million people have become newly infected and 2.1 million people will die of AIDS related causes in 2007.