Bangalore home nurtures ostracised HIV-positive children

May 24th, 2009 - 1:01 pm ICT by IANS  

By Maitreyee Boruah
Bangalore, May 24 (IANS) Manjula Kumari was HIV-positive from birth and lost both parents to AIDS when she was three. Shunned by relatives and neighbours due to the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, the child was brought up by an ailing grandmother, who also died a few years ago.

Now 14, Manjula (name changed on request) calls herself lucky to get a home. She and 19 other HIV-positive children live in Desire Society, where life is as normal as it can be in a caring orphanage and there is access to education.

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that leads to AIDS is often transmitted from the mother to the child in the foetus.

Started in 2005, Desire Society is the brainchild of G. Ravi Babu. He and his friends started the special home for children infected with HIV-AIDS at JP Nagar VIII phase here. Currently it shelters 20 children in the age group of 2 to 15 years.

“Along with food, clothes and shelter, we’re also taking care of the children’s education and medical needs,” Babu, the founder president of Desire Society, told IANS.

He became aware of the problem faced by HIV-positive children when a close friend who was suffering from AIDS died unattended.

“People with HIV-AIDS suffer from twin problems. First, the disease is deadly and needs constant medical attention. Second, people with HIV-AIDS suffer due to the social stigma attached to it. After the death of my childhood friend who died unattended as he was HIV-positive, I decided to work for the cause,” Babu said.

“The children who inherit the disease from their parents are the most victimised ones. It was no fault of theirs and yet they have to go through a lot of problems, including their health issues. We want the children to be educated and have access to medical care.”

The children are given food, medicine, education, shelter and all other necessities absolutely free of cost. The society depends on donations from individuals and corporate houses.

“All the 20 children of the home are now attending government schools in JP Nagar,” said E.M. Subhas, the society’s vice president.

“We have plans to support education of the children till graduation level. Soon we’re going to start vocational training for them,” he added.

Along with the children, four adults with HIV-AIDS are also staying at the home now.

“I thought I will also die like my parents, after my grandmother’s death, as there was no one to look after me. Thankfully, I got shelter in the home. They look after me very well. I get regular health check-ups here and I am happy attending school,” said Manjula, a student of Class 6. She aims to become a doctor.

Prasad K, 12, also lost both parents to HIV-AIDS. He said he was begging on the streets before he came to the home, almost a year ago.

“I was ill and weak, almost on the verge of death due to starvation. But, thankfully, Babu Sir brought me to the home and I am getting best of medical facilities.”

“Desire Society has brought new hope for me to lead a normal life. I want to stay here forever,” said Keshav, 44, one of the four adults. He has been staying at the home for the last six months.

The home depends on government-run hospitals to provide medical care to the inmates.

The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) has marked Karnataka as one of the states where AIDS is “highly prevalent”.

The state has 250,000 HIV-infected people and 33,000 suffering from AIDS, according to the Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society (KSAPS). But only 22,000 members are registered with the society.

An estimated 2.5 million people in India, aged between 15 and 49, are feared to be living with HIV/AIDS.

(Maitreyee Boruah can be contacted at m.boruah@ians.in)

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