BBC World examines the state of Aids in India

MUMBAI: News channel BBC World has announced that its initiative Who’s Afraid of HIV? returns for a new four-part series exploring the global social revolution driven by HIV, where life and society are being re-shaped by a disease. Breadwinners die, girls are forced into prostitution, and infidelity is on the increase. In this series, we revisit some of the locations featured in the series last year, to find out how some of the children affected by this deadly disease have managed to survive.

On 14 December 2006 at 4 pm the channel looks at India. In traditional conservative India victims of the HIV virus are frequently referred to as “those with bad blood” or ‘those with low morals”. Stigma and discrimination are so commonplace that with the threat of wives being divorced, employees fired, children abandoned and refused entry to schools, few are willing to reveal their HIV status to even those closest to them.

A year on the show returns to Nammakkal, Tamil Nadu, Southern India in search of 11 year old Vinod and his family. Has his and his mother Poonkundi’s HIV status become public as they feared, has the vital financial support from Poonkundi’s brother been withdrawn as a result? If so what does this mean for them in their small rural community. And are the anti viral drugs that Vinod and Poonkundi have become dependant on still available?

On 21 December Russia takes centrestage. Following the fall of the communist states in eastern Europe and the subsequent economic depression and unemployment, HIV has spread at alarming rates over the last 10 years. Fuelled by a huge intravenous drug use problem much of Russia in the late 1990s had very high HIV infection rates.

The Russian Baltic territory of Kaliningrad, nestling between Poland and Lithuania, may now have drug use being brought under control but for the orphans of this epidemic, like 3 year old Svieta, the future is still very uncertain. The damage most likely caused by Svetia’s mother’s continued drug abuse during her pregnancy could be clearly seen when we first met her, one year on has she begun to talk or are the affects of this combined with the virus continuing to stunt her development. For her elderly adoptive parents the strain of raising a 4 year old child is taking its toll.

On 28 December the channel visits Malawi. The small town of Monkey Bay on the banks of Lake Malawi, like so many other small towns and villages throughout southern Africa, is being destroyed by HIV/Aids. The channel returns to Monkey bay where Joyce Lwanda jumps from class to class struggling to teach an entire primary school on her own. For the children taught by Joyce, head teacher at Kankhande primary School, HIV is both a threat to their lives, and for those lucky enough to avoid the worse affects of the disease it may just take away their best chance at Education. Joyce one of the few teachers that seems to bother to appear at school regularly is HIV positive.

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