Expressing concern over the growing discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients, especially children and women, the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) has called for restraint and humane behaviour.
The call came on the wake of completion of two years of the Unicef and UNAIDS campaign Unite For Children Unite Against AIDS. UNAIDS country coordinator Dennis Broun said that the campaign has attracted many volunteers to work for a greater cause and brought change in the lives of thousands of women and children across India.
"Many famous personalities have supported this fight and their engagement has been crucial. There is more to be done and the whole UN family will continue the fight against HIV/AIDS in India," Broun said Friday.
According to the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO), an estimated 70,000 children below the age of 15 are infected with the HIV virus in India.
Nearly 21,000 children are infected every year through mother to child transmission. A small proportion is infected by unsafe injections and infected blood transfusions.
To make their appeal to a wider audience, delegates from Unicef, Unaids, NACO and AIDS affected people visited President Pratibha Devisingh Patil Thursday evening.
Unicef officials said Patil emphasised on raising awareness as the key to fight the "stigma and discrimination faced by the HIV positive people, especially women and children".
"No one should discriminate against HIV affected women and children," said a Unicef statement quoting Patil.
Of late, India has witnessed a number of discrimination cases against HIV positive people. While a pregnant woman in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, was forced to deliver her baby outside a hospital due to her HIV positive status, a few students were thrown out of schools in Kerala for the same reason.
HIV positive children and their mothers shared their life experiences with the president. She also met peer educators who presented her with artwork of their messages on stigma and discrimination.
Anand (name changed), a HIV positive child presented a Suraksha Bandhan -- a blue and red band in which the blue represents children and red represents the fight against HIV/AIDS -- to Patil as a sign of solidarity in the fight against the disease.