This Kolkata Cafe Run By HIV-Positive Staff Is Shattering Stigma
Image Credit: Instagram/cafepositivekolkata.

We’re in 2022 and it’s only right that the stigma attached to those who are HIV-positive be buried and gone with the last century. Kallol Ghosh seems to be in agreement with the sentiment. He was inspired by a restaurant in Germany and started Cafe Positive, a cafe run entirely by HIV-positive staff, in Kolkata.

“In 2006, I visited a restaurant in Munich, Germany, which was operated by HIV-positive young adults and picked up the idea of starting a cafe for the inmates of Anandaghar run by OFFER, a speciality institutional care for children living with HIV,” Ghosh told Slurrp. 

Café Positive was established in July 2018. It was first operated out of a small, 100 sq. ft garage in Jodhpur Park in Kolkata. “We then moved into this current location on Lake View Road. This facility has a covered area of 650 sq. ft with a glass door, kitchen and washroom,” says Ghosh. 

HIV can’t be transmitted via human contact that doesn’t involve sex or blood transfusion. However, there’s still a huge stigma attached to it since it’s mainly a sexually transmitted disease and also because people still fear that it might spread through regular contact. Cafe Positive aims to shatter these perceptions. 

“Cafe Positive is the only cafe in Asia which is managed and operated by HIV positive young adults,” says Ghosh. All staff members at the cafe are inmates of Anandaghar. “As per the Juvenile Justice Act, children above 18 years of age cannot stay in the home and the cafe was started with the objective of creating livelihood for these young adults. However, we are now in contact with Community Based Organizations to recruit more resources from the Positive People Network groups,” he says. 

The cafe is doing a great job of spreading awareness whilst giving customers a place to stop by for coffee and snacks. “The response to the cafe has been overwhelming. Progressive citizens across all walks of life from art & culture, the film fraternity, politicians, vocal artists and students throng this cafe. The number is increasing by the day and we are getting the opportunity to host new guests. They feel energised by the soothing ambiance, quality and economically priced food. The great cause behind it is the cornerstone of this venture,” says Ghosh. 

It gives the staff members a chance to lead a life free of judgement and also provides them with financial independence. Ghosh’s background makes him the ideal proprietor. “I was a National Service Volunteer, NYK, Ministry of Human Resources Development, and Government of India in the year 1988. I later joined the United Nations as a Volunteer, UNDP in the year 1989 and was posted in Nepal for two years. I also worked with UNICEF and initiated activities concerning Child Rights during the year 2000-2003. I was engaged in supporting street children under Oxford and Cambridge Universities Programme and worked with the National Legal Services Authority, New Delhi for the establishment of the rights of poor people. Currently I am working with street children, children with HIV/AIDS, and providing institutional care for mentally and physically challenged children,” he says. “I have been honoured with the prestigious Senior Ashoka Fellow award and also received an Honorary Doctorate Award by the Italian Government.”

To Ghosh, the future of his thoughtful venture looks bright. “We are coming up with at least 6 kiosks in the food courts of the City Malls and also key locations in the city. The cafe will then branch out to all major Indian cities and towns which have a higher number of HIV-positive young adults who are looking for economic sustenance,” he says. “Cafe Positive also has visions to provide vocational training to members of all marginalised communities with the objective of inclusion, social upliftment and economic empowerment of the not-so-privileged citizens of this country.”

With a thought process that’s noble, there’s no doubt that this initiative is going to go places, taking away the stigma attached to being HIV-positive.