HIV positive children dream big… unaware of their ill health (Dec 1 is World AIDS Day)

Hyderabad, Nov 30 ( Ignorance is bliss and this adage perhaps best suits a group of children in Andhra Pradesh who want to make it big by becoming doctors, engineers, pilots or even cricketers like “captain Dhoni”. But they are all HIV positive and don’t know about it.

Y. Sanju, a Class 4 student in a village of Ranga Reddy district, around 70 km from here, is one such example.

“I want to become a doctor and serve my village people. My mother died when I was seven and I don’t want to see others suffering,” Sanju told Inditop in Telugu.

She is thin and shy but very forthcoming while answering questions about her dream and education. Wearing a colourful dress and sitting along with her friends in an NGO office, Sanju does not know about her health status.

Youngest among four siblings, she tested positive for HIV some nine months back. The disease has already claimed her mother — and her father, an agricultural labourer, has also tested positive.

“I want to study like my friends and one day make my family proud,” Sanju said.

Like Sanju, Kalyan is another optimist. At 11 years of age, he studies in Class 5 and wants to become a cricketer like India cricket captain M.S. Dhoni.

“I want to become a cricketer like captain Dhoni. He is my favourite player. I will play cricket to represent Hyderabad,” said Kalyan, who has lost both his parents.

He and his brother, who is also HIV positive, are now staying with their uncle. Coming to their rescue is the Geneva-based The Global Fund, an international aid agency.

In Ranga Reddy district alone, the ‘Chaha’ project of The Global Fund reaches 492 children from 235 homes. In Andhra Pradesh, 8,865 children have benefited from similar care and support services.

“We are supporting these children by helping them in education. We also provide money for their nutritional needs. Our focus is to provide these tender faces an equal chance in society,” said Nalin Mehta, spokesperson for The Global Fund, Geneva.

“We try to make their families self-sustaining so that these kids don’t drop out of school or slip into undernourishment,” Mehta added.

According to the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), India is home to at least 2.5 million HIV positive people, of which over 80,000 are children below the age of 15.

The country introduced paediatric doses of anti-retroviral drugs used to curb HIV under the government programme last year. Within a year, over 16,000 children of the below-15-years age group have received the medicine.

A student of Class 9, Dinesh is another HIV positive teenager who wants to become an engineer.

“I want to become a famous engineer and work in cities like Hyderabad and Vizag (Vishakhapatnam),” said Dinesh, whose village does not have enough infrastructure to help them lead a comfortable life.

There are others like Savita, Kumar and Laxman, who are among many HIV positive children who want to study hard and script success stories for their families and villages.