Durga Puja this year marked a big occasion for several HIV affected children as they offered their prayers to Goddess Durga.
It was a momentous occasion for about 80 children who are mentally challenged apart from being HIV positive.
Unlike other parts of the country where HIV positive are mostly ostracized, the residents of Gobindpur village in West Bengal mingled freely with these children and enjoyed the fun and frolic.
'Offer', a Non-Governmental Organisation, which runs a residential complex for these children, organised the village festival. The objective of the whole exercise was to spread the message that AIDS is not an infectious disease.
"We run a residential programme where abandoned children are kept. They are socially unaccepted. We try to bring them up in congenial environment", said Kallol Ghosh, Secretary of NGO.
The children started preparations for the festival a month in advance.
Attired in their new dresses, they enjoyed full independence.
"For five to six days, we try to bring a smile to their faces. We have lunch together, we dance together and also organise some cultural programmes," said Somashree, chief coordinator of the NGO.
There has been an alarming increase in the number of AIDS cases in West Bengal, which has a population of about 80 million.
According to National AIDS Control Organisation estimates, there were 6,941 HIV positive people in West Bengal as of July 2005 of which 2,397 were full blown AIDS patients.
India has the world's third highest HIV caseload, after South Africa and Nigeria, with around 2.5 million people living with the virus.
The Government said at least 21,000 children are infected every year through mother-to-child transmission of the virus.
According to UNAIDS, 60,000 infants are born every year with disease.