Support from peers gave a positive outlook towards life

I am Kannan, for me acceptance and support from peers like me make me feel more confident and have a positive outlook towards life. I am representing vetri kootam, young children group in Tiruchengode taluk of Namakkal district in Tamilnadu. It is the children group formed through the initiative of Buds of Christ on October 2009. Now we are currently 20 members actively functioning as a support group and advocacy group in ensuring the rights of children affected by HIV are safeguarded.

I am 16 years old and living with HIV for the last 3 years. The importance of knowing about the infection and the prevention measures one needs to take was a learning that I received after knowing my status. Though text books and curriculum includes topics on reproductive health and sex organs, the topic is just dealt and sometimes even skipped by the teacher. This arouses keen interest among young children like me, which can also lead to risk conditions .There is a need for proper access to right and quality information, especially on vital topics like sexual and reproductive health and should be easily dealt by the school teachers.

I was studying in 9th standard and due to my poor health condition, I was tested for HIV. I also had TB co-infection for which I was treated in the hospital and later referred to government hospital for further treatment for HIV. There the counselor provided me with the right and complete information that enabled me to cope with the knowledge of knowing my status and also further continue my studies. The need for proper counseling helps children like me to cope with the information about our status. In our support group, there are some children who have not been provided with complete information, so are casual about their Anti-retro viral treatment as well as positive prevention.

In addition to proper counseling, proper support systems should be in place. Though I was the only one affected by HIV in my family, I was not discriminated by my parents or sister. But I was restricted to be open about my status to my neighbors as the stigmatized perception of HIV is very strong in our community. Living with the virus is one challenging fear but more than that being identified as HIV positive, especially while accessing treatment in the hospital or by looking at the label of the medicines. Knowledge about HIV and AIDS should be made known to the people without a stigmatized perception among the community.

Though I was able to continue my education and complete my 10th standard, the side effects of ARV caused a great discomfort affecting my physical appearance had growth in the chest region and was mocked by my friends in school. This affected me, that I discontinue my education. Most of the children like me need a safe and positive environment, where we are accepted and encouraged.

Now if I am bold and confident it is with the support of children like me who have formed a support group (vetri kootam) to support one another psychologically in dealing with the psychological, physical and social challenges HIV imposes. Now I am studying digital designing with the support of Buds of Christ through its rural initiative for orphans and vulnerable children, Nalam Child Development Center.

My name is Kannan (name changed), Male, 16 years old, Tiruchengode, Tamilnadu INDIA

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