Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV has not only been a healthcare issue, but also a major social topic with extensive ramification. The group that has been dealt worst by this epidemic are the children living with HIV. The society, due to lack of awareness, had ostracized these children forcing them to worst form of child labour. Myths and misconceptions in the society led to stigmatization and refused these children vital medical support. Even the basic rights of food, shelter and education were denied to them by orphanages and formal schools. Thus, a medical issue robbed childhood from these children.
In West Bengal, India, the scenario started shifting when we came up with “Anandaghar” in 2004.This is a speciality institutional care for the children living with HIV infection. Through this initiative, we are trying to restore these children’s faith in humanity and provide a platform that will help them integrate in the society. Right now, 70 children and youth stay at the Anandaghar facility. In addition to that, 300 HIV positive kids have been continuously helped through the facility. It is a unique attempt where we use multifaceted approach to improve the quality of life of these children and make them ready for the future.
We work closely with local government bodies and thinkers in our society to provide these children formal education. We take pride to announce that the Anandaghar kids have responded splendidly. Some have cleared there secondary and higher secondary board exams, others are on the verge of that.
Along with comprehensive educational support, we also provide them healthcare, psychosocial therapy, involve them in various sports and cultural activities, and organize field trips and excursions so that they can have a normal and healthy life.
At present Anandaghar is working on ‘Atmaja’ – a project ‘born out of soul’ that aims to eliminate vertical infection of HIV from India. Under this programme, we are reaching out to prospective mothers who are HIV positive and enabling them latest therapies in HIV treatment. We hope this will help them give birth to HIV-free newborns. In India, where more than 200,000 children are inflicted with this virus,this innovative programme will lead to a new dawn where any child born to a HIV positive mother will see the light of day sans this infection. We hope that ‘Atmaja’ will pioneer new approach to reduce, and finally eradicate vertical transmission of HIV.