Blog Archives

CNN: AIDS & India’s New Untouchables

Today on CNN Asia, the Mumbai home page features my article as one of its main rotating headline articles.

The story, “India’s New Untouchables: Children Living with AIDS” tells my personal experience in a village outside Vijayawada, with families who have been devastated by AIDS/HIV. This was a place in which much of the middle generation was missing, wiped out by the epidemic; it was elderly people raising their young grandchildren – some of whom were HIV-positive themselves, in a wholly unnecessary legacy of destruction.

My visit to Yesu’s family, and others, was three years ago – but to this day, I have never stopped thinking about them. I can’t forget the way their eyes looked; beyond tears, just despairing, and struggling to survive.

This article is published on the eve of the International AIDS Conference, which is preparing to meet in Geneva. Won’t you take a moment to read Yesu’s story, pass it on to others, and visit the World AIDS Campaign to learn how you can impact the fight against this disease, which is so devastating for children.

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World AIDS Day

Today, December 1 is World AIDS Day, a day when people around the world come together in a single, collective effort at eliminating HIV/AIDS. This year’s theme—’Universal Access and Human Rights’—highlights the need to protect human rights and attain universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

Although much of the AIDS crisis is concentrated in Africa – and frightening increases in South America and Eastern Europe – India has the largest number of AIDS orphans in the world. Through much of my travels and research while writing The Weight of Silence, I came across child after child, and family after family, devastated by AIDS. I have spent several days with a man and his family, who try to provide a home to AIDS orphans, as well as food, education and medical care to the surrounding villagers – places where the infection rates are the highest in the country, and which have been absolutely decimated by AIDS.

I have visited entire slum communities where what was chilling to my heart wasn’t what I found, but what was missing. Places where the entire middle generation is simply gone – these are slums in which virtually all the citizens are the very old taking care of children, and vice versa. The parents have been almost completely wiped out, leaving their children in the care of grandparents. Many of these children are also HIV-positive, continuing the completely unnecessary legacy of destruction that AIDS wreaks when expensive Western medicines are not readily available.

Please take a moment today to think of those who live in a world so far removed from what we know – indeed, what we can even imagine – and renew your commitment to fighting this disease. Join the Global Fund, and learn what you can do. We’re in this together.

You can also watch an Alicia Keys concert on YouTube. Alicia is the co-founder of Keep A Child Alive, a people’s movement that provides life-saving AIDS medicine and surrounding care to children and families in Africa and India. KCA also provides support to AIDS orphans left behind to keep the most vulnerable children out of harms way.

The show’s proceeds will go directly to Keep A Child Alive. Click here to watch the show.

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Give Thanks in a Meaningful Way

In honor of Thanksgiving, I would like to tell you about GlobalGiving’s “Everybody Can Win!” challenge. GlobalGiving is a global marketplace for philanthropy that helps donors support causes they are passionate about. Using its public website, GlobalGiving connects donors to more than 500 community based projects worldwide. The site hosts projects which range in topic from education and the environment to healthcare and human rights in more than 69 countries. Over the past 5 years, more than $13 million has been raised through GlobalGiving.

GlobalGiving’s Everybody Can Win! Challenge is an opportunity for donors to help innovative children’s health and education projects earn up to $25,000.

What is the challenge?
Just for participating, Project Leaders start out with a $2,500 prize! But to keep it, projects must raise $5,000 from 50 unique donors (at least 50 different people) between November 15 and December 15, 2008. In addition to keeping the $2,500, projects can compete for other rewards. The project that recruits the most unique donors will earn an extra $15,000, and the project that raises the most money will earn an extra $10,000.

Why give?
Your donation matters! Every donation supports the health and education needs of children around the world. And from November 15-December 15, your donation has the potential to have an even greater impact by helping these projects get one step closer to these amazing opportunities.

Who are the participants?
Participants are pre-screened, pre-selected project leaders from around the world who are working on health or education projects that support children. I have a particular GlobalGiving project that I would like to recommend, one I have visited and worked with personally: Little HEARTS orphanage.

As part of a month-long trip I took to India in 2007, that was part volunteer vacation and part research and interview for this book, I spent several days with the children at Little Hearts. These children have been orphaned by AIDS in Andhra Pradesh, the Indian state with the highest infection rates in a country that has the most AIDS orphans of any country in the world. In this south Indian state, where 30% of adults have HIV/AIDS, C.P. Kumar and his family took in 26 abandoned children. They need to build a second story onto their house and provide education, health care, food and love. With help, these small projects can grow into a network of local care providers who can rescue great numbers of children. HEART House, which now cares for 26 orphans, is poised to expand, but needs our help.

You can read my story about Little Hearts here. I have been a consistent donor and supporter of C.P. and the children of Little Hearts, and have seen the direct results of my support. I sent $500 US to build toilets (previously there had been only one sub-standard toilet for all 26 children); a few months later I arrived, and saw the new toilets and sinks being completed!

Click here to donate or read more about Little Heart’s GlobalGiving fundraising campaign.

Ashley Judd in India

Ashley Judd joined YouthAIDS as Global Ambassador in 2002 after seeing the effects of HIV/AIDS on communities and children in the United States and around the globe. With no cure in sight, and the realization that education is the only way to prevent the spread of this disease, Ashley uses her celebrity status to speak on behalf of those without a voice and to promote YouthAIDS’ programs to provide young adults with immediate solutions for fighting AIDS.

Watch the Video!

Ashley says education and prevention is the best way to combat AIDS and HIV, which disproportionately affect women and girls and prey upon the vulnerable and less fortunate.

The actress met with HIV/AIDS orphans in India, including two sisters, ages 9 and 12, whose parents died in quick succession after their father infected their mother with the disease.

“It’s very real and it’s real stories and real heartache and also real opportunity to focus on a solution that is very cost effective and has an extraordinarily meaningful impact in the lives of young people,” Judd said.

Watch the video from Ashley’s journey.

Read Ashley’s Journal from India here, on