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Turning thirty on Thursday 19 November 2009, Katherine Kelly, who plays much loved character Becky McDonald in ITV’s Coronation Street, marked her birthday in a way she will never forget.
Having sponsored a child with ActionAid for several years, Katherine decided to travel to India to meet women of around the same age who have benefitted from the charity’s work.
In Bangalore, southern India, Katherine visited the ActionAid-funded Milana project, run by Jyothi Kiran. The project supports women and their families who are living with HIV and AIDS through meetings, discussions and counselling. Still very much a taboo subject in India, those living with HIV and AIDS suffer intense discrimination and prejudice. For women, especially those that are poor and from lower castes, being diagnosed as HIV-positive means being ostracised from society. Disowned by their family, they are often left completely alone to fend for themselves and their children, with no knowledge of how to deal with the virus.
The MILANA project aims to educate these women on their rights and provide advice on health issues, such as nutrition and medical care. Most importantly, through mutual support, the project allows the women to meet others like them and learn not to be ashamed, but to face the future with confidence.
During the trip, Katherine met several women in their late twenties and early thirties who have been part of the Milana project. Sharing their most personal stories with her, Katherine learnt the impact the virus has had on their lives and the lives of their children and how the project has turned their lives around.