Bengal’s HIV orphans get help from Italy

January 28th, 2010 - 2:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Baruipur (West Bengal), Jan 28 (IANS) Eleven-year-old Pathik brims with confidence as he sits in his adopted home Anandaghar. The days when the HIV-positive child and his mother — seriously ill with AIDS — were forced to live in a cow shed are a distant nightmare now.
The boy who was HIV infected from birth and his mother had been ostracised by other relatives and neighbours in their home in West Bengal’s Bankura district. Now his mother is dead but Pathik (name changed) has a new life with 38 other youngsters in Anandaghar (Happy Home), all of whom had once faced similar hostility.

Located in this headquarters of South 24 Parganas district, Anandaghar houses orphans who got the HIV infection from their parents and were ostracised by society. The children here have been brought from nine districts of West Bengal.

Two of them are seriously ill with full-blown AIDS.

“I brought Pathik and his mother from their village in 2006. Her mother died in a hospital 17 months later,” says Organisation for Friends Energies and Resources (OFFER) secretary Kallol Ghosh, who runs Anandaghar.

“I am very happy here. I play with my friends,” says Pathik, busy savouring a chocolate.

Wednesday was a very special day for these children, as the municipality of Naples in Italy gifted Anandaghar with an ambulance.

“Apart from the two already affected with AIDS, the others will also contract AIDS, tomorrow, day after or years later. So, they have to be given regular medical treatment as risks of opportunistic infection is very high in HIV positive patients due to low immunity levels. The ambulance will be of great help,” said Ghosh.

OFFER now wants to increase the number of inmates to 100 by the end of 2010-11. “We know in our state there are 117 such orphans who are infected with HIV from birth from their mother. So our target is to cover as many of them as we can,” Ghosh said.

Italian Consul General Silvio Pentrella was present when the ambulance was handed over.

“It’s not a question of boundaries, of countries, of colour. It’s a solidarity and we are happy at the work being done at OFFER and hope that together with Ame Sampre and other organisations they will continue the good work,” he said on the occasion.

“When we started the organisation 13 years ago it was in a small room. I am still very emotional about the first day. And as we see now 13 years down the line we have 39 AIDS children at Anandaghar,” said famous Italian filmmaker Sergio Scapeginni who is also official spokesperson of Italian NGO Ame Sampre, which is associated with the project since its inception.

Out of the 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS the world over, 2.2 million are children under 15. According to a Unicef report, India has an estimated 220,000 children below 15 who are HIV positive.

HIV-infected mothers run the risk of transmitting the virus to their infants during pregnancy, labour, delivery or breast-feeding. Mother-to-child-transmission (MTCT) causes more than 90 percent of HIV infections worldwide in infants and children.

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