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HIV gesture: CM gets praise from Gere 
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, January 16
Little did Karnataka Chief Minister H. D. Kumaraswamy know that his promise to stay at the house of a HIV positive person for one night would lead to.
Now he does. Hollywood superstar Richard Gere called on him on Friday and lauded the effort being made by Kumaraswamy to lower the stigma associated with the disease.

Gere said he was on his way to the Tibetan settlement of Byalakuppe when he chanced upon an article stating the Chief Minister's desire to spend a night in the home of a HIV positive person later this month.

"The gesture is extraordinary and does not happen in most countries. Moreover, it will be a milestone in the history of the disease in Karnataka and will go a long way in dispelling myths associated with the disease. He said the fight against AIDS is ongoing but with determined leadership as shown by Kumaraswamy and overall commitment of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh he was sure of good results.

The Chief Minister on his part said he would like to get a feel of the complexities of lives of HIV positive persons through this step.

He said this would be his own small contribution to stop discrimination faced by people living with HIV.

Meanwhile, David Bodapati from the Centres for AIDS Research (CFAR), told TNS that Project Samastha, a programme being funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to the tune of Rs 97.7 crore, had been launched in 12 districts and three cities of Karnataka for HIV and AIDS prevention, care, support and treatment.

Asha Ramaiah, an HIV positive pioneer who is working for the community as a change agent, said the Chief Minister's gesture could become a milestone in the reduction of stigma against HIV carriers. However, besides this, she said, help from the government needed to be more meaningful. Ramaiah said already there were five lakh infected persons in the state and that there was an urgent need for more care centres and ensuring government services reached every village.

Ramaiah felt that due to extreme fear and stigma people are not talking about HIV. It is this fear that is driving the silence around the epidemic various ways. "We are all mortal and what matters is how a person lives and what he or she achieves in life. This is not possible if people living with HIV patients grieve in silence and bear the burden alone, she added.

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