Kaushalya, the President of the Positive Women's Network making a presentation at the national meeting on Orphans and Vulnerable Children held in Delhi
New Delhi, 29 March 2005: India's nodal agency for women and children, the Department of Women & Child Development, along with the national body for AIDS control, the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), have announced the formation of a high-level national coalition to push for greater prioritisation for HIV/AIDS. The coalition will consist of relevant ministries and departments, non-governmental, community-based organisations, faith-based and other international agencies, donors and the private sector.
A two-day national consultation, which concluded on March 29 in New Delhi, was held with the support of UNICEF India and a New York-based health and development agency, the Catholic Medical Mission Board, to draw the attention of policy makers to the plight of people living with HIV.
Participants proposed a comprehensive national policy to guide the creation of interventions for those living with HIV/AIDS, especially children. The conference also recommended the creation of mechanisms within the existing policy framework to ensure special attention is given to orphans and other vulnerable children. Reintegration of HIV affected children who have lost their parents to the virus was earmarked as a major priority.
Health experts said the vulnerability that HIV affected children face sets in long before they are orphaned. They bear the brunt of ill health, which includes the loss of productivity, inability to attend school and high costs of medical treatment. Such children, they said, are more than likely to be abused and exploited and suffer also from not having their psychosocial needs adequately met.
The pioneering role played by many faith-based and development agencies across India in providing information, vocational skills training, basic education, medical care, counselling and micro-credit to those living with HIV was greatly appreciated. But the consultation group did point out that these agencies often lack the financial and human resources to fully address the scope of the problem.
A senior government official said, “We will create many collaborative linkages and networks to ensure that issues of concern to vulnerable populations are accorded the necessary attention, resources and commitment without unnecessary duplication and delays.”
The consultation began with a testimony from an affected child, and the presentation of three other cases by the UNICEF Representative to India, Cecilio Adorna. Leading Indian film actress, Sharmila Tagore, inaugurated the consultation. She declared that all affected children needed the existence of 5 factors to cope with the virus: (1) A caring home (2) An accepting neighbourhood (3) A friendly service provider, (4) A protective government and (5) A conducive environment.