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Stoning slur on Andhra AIDS death

Hyderabad, July 10: An Australian NGO has blamed the death of an AIDS-afflicted woman in Kuppam on stoning by neighbours though a state inquiry attributed it to the critical stage of the disease.

Local language newspapers had alleged that Pavanamma, a 32-year-old housewife, was chased by neighbours — at B.C. Colony in Munuswamypuram village — while she was going to a shop and pelted with stones on June 29.

She died at home in Kuppam — chief minister . Chandrababu Naidu’s seat — on July 3.

The non-government organisation, Australian AIDS Fund Inc, brought the death to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s notice in their letter. “Such a horror and appalling act should be unacceptable in any society and be condemned in strongest terms,” the letter said.

The government ordered an inquiry — the first such into an AIDS patient’s death in the state — by revenue divisional officer Sharat along with medical officials at Kuppam. The probe today attributed her death to the incurable disease, which they said had reached a critical stage.

“Investigations showed that she was a critical stage AIDS patient and she could die any time,” said Manohar, a Telugu Desam Party leader of Kuppam.

Her mother, Sharadamma, said on phone: “She (Pavanamma) was upset and delirious and unconscious during the last four days. After returning from a walk on June 29, she became bedridden.”

Pavanamma, the inquiry said, was suffering from heavy diarrhoea and the stench from her house had kept many neighbours away from their homes for nearly two days.

The backward-class woman, twice married and a mother of two children, was living with her mother and brother for the past two years. Her second husband, Veerayya, had sent her home from Guntur after she fell chronically ill.

Pavanamma’s brother Ramappa said she was infected by her first husband Balaji. Her 9-year-old son by Balaji is with his parents and 5-year-old daughter with Veerayya is in Guntur.

An NGO activist from Chittoor, who refused to give his name and that of his organisation, brushed aside the validity of the state inquiry.

“Even for such suicides, the government had not appointed any inquiries. But what has been done at Kuppam is just to clean up the high-profile image of the chief minister’s constituency,” the activist said.

He was referring to suicides by some HIV-positive families over the past one year in Guntur, Vijayawada, Nalgonda and Khammam. Only four deaths from AIDS have been recorded in the state.

The local panchayat had allegedly tried to expel Pavanamma, whose AIDS affliction was also known in surrounding villages, from Munuswamypuram and slapped her relatives with a Rs 600 fine.

Later, the fine was collected and she was banned from drawing drinking water, and going to the local temple and tea shops.

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