Orphaned by AIDS, siblings long for a normal life

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Sora (Orissa), Feb 15 : Eleven-year old Akshya and his seven-year old sister Rani, who have lost their parents to AIDS, are struggling to survive as they live in a state of misery because their stepmother Bharati Khuntia is also an AIDS victim.

Akshya and Rani, who have not been diagnosed with AIDS, are at present living in Sora village of Orissa's Balasore District, with Khuntia.

Crestfallen, with the feeling that they are unwanted, Akshya said, "I want to study more and be a good human being. But nobody is accepting me here. I want to go out."

Khuntia said she is unable to care for the children anymore, as she cannot work due to the disease.

"My husband died recently. We are now in a miserable condition. How can I feed my children, I don't know. I think I should keep the children in a children's home," Khuntia added.

Villagers said when their father was alive there was at least some money coming to feed the family but now their only hope is assistance from the Government or a social organisation.

"The family actually needs help. If the government or an NGO would help them that would be very good for the benefit of the children," said Bijay Ku Mallick, a villager.

Although the Government has launched a nation-wide programme to educate the people about the disease, the stigma is still widely prevalent.

India has roughly 2.5 million people infected with HIV, less than half the number of cases that previous studies estimated.

An earlier U.N. study had estimated 5.7 million HIV cases, which would have been the highest total in the world.

But as per the latest available data, India, which has a population of 1.1 billion, has fewer HIV cases than South Africa and Nigeria.

ANI

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