Bagalkot (Karnataka): Concerned over the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Karnataka and hoping to dispel the stigma attached to the disease, Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy will spend Tuesday night in the hut of a HIV positive family.
Kumarswamy will reach Ingalagi village in Bagalkot district, 600 km from the state capital Bangalore where over 100 people are affected by the disease, at around 11 p.m. and spend the night in the house of Basayya Mathapati. On Wednesday morning, the chief minister is scheduled to address affected people and village health community members.
Basayya Mathapati's son Rudrayya and his daughter-in-law Shobha are HIV positive.
"A night with the family will open the minds of the people in the state and outside," said Mohan H.L., director (information, education and communication) of the Karnataka Health Promotion Trust (KHPT), an initiative of the state health ministry.
"Kumaraswamy will have dinner at their home. The district administration is building a toilet at the house for his convenience," Mohan told IANS.
"No chief minister of India has taken such a step. We welcome his gesture and hope that it helps in dispelling discrimination and increasing social acceptance."
Rudrayya said his confidence levels to fight the disease had gone up with the chief minister's gesture.
Karnataka is one of India's high prevalence states with over 500,000 HIV positive people, accounting for nearly 10 percent of the numbers countrywide.
According to the Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society, HIV prevalence rate in the state is 1.56 percent, nearly three times the national rate. Most cases are from 12 high-risk districts of the state. In Bagalkot district, the prevalence rate is 3.2 percent.
According to National AIDS Control Society, India is home to 5.2 million HIV positive people, second only to South Africa in terms of AIDS population worldwide.
"A few years ago, AIDS patients were not even touched by people. They led an isolated life. When we started our regular rural intervention programme, villagers told us to take away all the HIV positive people," recalled Usha Rani, senior regional manager of KHPT.
She said that since the prevalence rate was above 3 percent, HIV positive people in the district were quite visible.
"The awareness level has gone up in the state and we believe that Kumaraswamy's noble gesture will help the cause in a large way. The visit will increase social acceptance. Health authorities need to back it up through sustained efforts."