AIDS patient and orphan Bensy (15) told HT last Friday at her residence in Kollam that she wanted to be “a doctor and treat the HIV-affected free of cost”.
She died in a government hospital here on Thursday, leaving her brother, Benson (14), also HIV-positive.
In 2002, Bensy and Benson were on the banner of the anti-AIDS campaign of the country.
Both staged a fast-unto-death before the state secretariat in 2002, when they were thrown out of Government Lower Primary School in Kaithakuzhi (southern Kollam district). They had earlier been expelled from four other schools.
Battling stigma and ostracism, they stormed their way back to school.
The then chief minister of Kerala, A.K. Antony, now defence minister, gave them moral support. There was outrage at the decision of the school, which had to knuckle under.
Their fight was moving. “My snaps with these children will speak for themselves in future,” said Sushma Swaraj, health minister in the National Democratic Alliance government, after hugging them at an AIDS awareness programme here in 2003.
The former President, Abdul Kalam, had also met them.
The siblings lost their parents at an early age. Both had died of AIDS. Since then she and her brother were staying with their grandparents.
When relatives, classmates and others shut the door on her face, Bensy gently reminded them of their right to live and learn. Through protest marches and awareness campaigns, she succeeded to an extent in getting her right to live with
HT was the first to report their case nationally and carried many news items highlighting their plight.