Gorkhatimes

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Positive dreams on sale at HIV expo

Posted by Ramesh Khati on November 7, 2009

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Visitors look at the paintings on display in Darjeeling on Friday.

Darjeeling, Nov. 6(The Telegraph): Hari Chhetri has been HIV positive for almost a decade. The society might think that Chhetri can do little, but he and his friends have decided to prove that “life does not end with HIV/AIDS”.

People living with HIV/AIDS have come together to organise an art exhibition titled Positive Expressions, where their works have been put on for sale.

Chhetri is also the president of Sankar Foundation DjNP+ (Darjeeling Network of Positive People).

Of the 27 works at the exposition that is being held today and tomorrow, five were immediately sold, raising Rs 55,000 by afternoon.

“These artworks were the outcome of a two-day creative design workshop that was conducted by Sweta Pradhan and Dipang Lama of PRO D, along with Helen King,” said Chhetri.

The PRO D is a Darjeeling-based NGO, while King is a volunteer with the Shankar Foundation DjNP+.

The works, which have been done with charcoal, crayons and oil paints, express the hopes and dreams of the HIV positive people, many of whom have dared to come out in public.

“My work reflects the life before and after I was diagnosed with HIV positive. Society might be thinking that HIV people are mere skeletons but we want to prove that life does not end with HIV/AIDS,” said Shankar Mani Rai, pointing at his work.

“The artworks will also feature in the calendar which will be brought by the Shandar Foundation DjNP+. The money generated by the sale of the artworks and the calendar will go to the foundation,” said Pasang Lepcha, co-ordinator of Community Health and Advancement Initiative (CHAI), an NGO based in Darjeeling.

A total of 195 HIV positive people from across the hills are currently registered with the Shankar Foundation. “We have found that there are at least 187 HIV positive people in Darjeeling alone, but only 138 of them have registered with our organisation,” said Chhetri.

The Shankar Foundation caters for the medical needs of its members and organises events to disseminate information on the disease.

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