HIV-positive serve food, awareness at eatery | india | Hindustan Times
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HIV-positive serve food, awareness at eatery

india Updated: Jun 13, 2007 14:03 IST
Rupam Jain Nair
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A group of HIV-positive Indians have opened a restaurant, hoping to win over hearts with good food and raise awareness about AIDS.

Activists say widespread stigma and discrimination have contributed to paranoia about the disease in India, which has the world's largest number of people living with HIV.

Children found carrying the virus have been expelled from schools and patients denied treatment in hospitals.

At Adhar restaurant in Ahmedabad, which opened about a fortnight ago, HIV-infected staff cook and serve the food and cater for parties at other locations as well.

The fare is vegetarian, with a variety of curries, lentils, rice and bread being the staple.

In the beginning, guests got angry and threw away their food when told that it had been prepared and served by HIV-positive people. But business is gradually picking up with health workers and volunteers encouraging Indians to visit the eatery.

"If a good meal is a way to reach a man's heart then we surely will," said Varsha Vala, the eatery's 30-year-old chef.

The 60-seater restaurant is owned and managed by a network of about 700 HIV-positive people, who take turns to cook, serve or wait on tables.

"Once people enjoy the food, the myths and misconceptions attached to HIV/AIDS will be erased from their minds forever," said S Bala, a member of the network in Gujarat.

Adhar serves free meals to HIV-positive people and holds pottery classes, textile-design workshops and cookery contests for infected people, some of whom lost their jobs when their HIV status was revealed.

"Ignorance about AIDS should be burnt and forgotten with our cooking," said R Dabhi, another network member.

There are 5.7 million people thought to be infected in India, although findings of a new population-based national survey have indicated that the actual figure could be lower.

Gujarat is not a high prevalence state, but the National AIDS Control Organisation says there has been a rise in the number of cases from the region, which has a large population of migrant labourers.

Migrant workers are known to contract HIV from prostitutes and then pass it on to their wives when they return home.