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India: Death by discrimination, not AIDS

The death of Munuswamy Pounamma, a 30-year-old woman living with AIDS in Kuppam, Chittor district, Andhra Pradesh, recently made news - for the sheer brutality shown to an AIDS patient.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2003 12:55 IST

The death of Munuswamy Pounamma, a 30-year-old woman living with AIDS in Kuppam, Chittor district, Andhra Pradesh, recently made news - for the sheer brutality shown to an AIDS patient.

Early last month, a couple of reports appeared in southern vernacular dailies like Andhra Jyoti about a woman with AIDS being stoned to death. Days later, a Tirupati-based NGO, Women Initiatives (WINS), posted the same pieces of information on the web, claiming it knew of an eyewitness to the stoning. This news on the web was accessed by a Melbourne-based donor agency Australian AIDS Fund, which wrote letters to President A P J Abdul Kalam and Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, condemning the treatment meted out to the woman. That's when the National Commission for Women (NCW) decided to send a fact-finding team, led by its chairperson Purnima Advani, to Kuppam.

Pounamma was a widow with a son and a daughter. Her husband died of AIDS and in mid-2001, it was determined that Pounamma, too, had AIDS. Thereafter, she was systematically tortured and forced to live in isolation. National dailies carried reports claiming that neighbours often heard her scream and cry; some even said that Pounamma was administered magnesium sulphate injections, which are used to kill stray dogs, and that she was repeatedly hit with a wooden stool.

First Published: Nov 30, 2003 21:36 IST