Kerala’s HIV-positive siblings need more money

Kollam (Kerala), Nov 30 ( Bensy and Benson, two HIV positive children who fought a gritty battle to prevent schools in Kerala from turning them away a few years back, get aid from HLL Lifecare Ltd but say they now need more money as the elder sibling has to make frequent trips to the hospital.

“At times, my grandmother says there is not much money left for the month so we have to cut down on expenses. Any way I feel I am okay but my sister Bensy is not that healthy and we have to take her frequently to the hospital. What I am told is that may be if she can eat more nutritious food, she can be a bit more healthy like me,” 13-year-old Benson told Inditop on the eve of World Aids Day Tuesday.

The two children were infected by their parents, who died a few years ago. They are looked after by their 56-year-old grandmother Sallamma, who gets a widow’s pension of Rs.3,000 a month.

Bensy and Benson got a lot of media attention when, led by their grandfather, they barged into the state secretariat when A.K. Antony was the chief minister, seeking his intervention to stop schools from turning them away.

In 2004, after two years of struggle, they were re-admitted to the government-run school near their home at Chathanur in Kollam district, about 50 km from Thiruvananthapuram.

Their grandfather died in 2005.

HLL, according to Sallamma, provides Rs.1,200 to buy milk, Rs.1,500 for buying nutritious food and Rs.800 for their travel to school.

“Life is getting tough for me as well because I am an asthma patient. Look at the cost of essential items. We find it difficult. My son in Mumbai also chips in but all in all it is a tough life for me and the kids,” Sallamma said.

Asked if he knew the significance of Dec 1 (World Aids Day), Benson said: “Yes, yes I know, it is the month of December and Christmas is round the corner.”

His grandmother prompted from behind: “Tomorrow is World Aids Day.”

But Benson shot back: “Ammachi (granny), I have no problem.”

Sallamma said: “Bensy was in a serious condition in June end and was admitted to the Trivandrum Medical College. It was only last month that her condition improved and we now seek solace in Jesus. We make it a point to attend prayers. Even yesterday I had taken the two kids to a prayer centre,” said Sallamma.

The two kids attend school now and are conscientious students. Asked why Benson hadn’t gone to school Monday, he said: “I didn’t do my homework and if I reach my class without doing the homework I will have to face my teacher’s anger. My sister has gone to school.”