What about children?- World AIDS Day message by Buds of Christ - 2011

HIV was first identified in Chennai, India in 1986. 25 years of HIV in Tamilnadu have caused severe impact on many individuals and families and the worst affected are  children. Around two lakh people living with HIV have registered for treatment services in Government hospitals throughout Tamilnadu. Among this around 10000 are children living with HIV. Thanks to Treatment and diagnostic services and access to the same that have helped the Govt identify and provide appropriate care to those affected by HIV and AIDS.

But there are very few efforts that have gone in making a difference to the lives of children affected by HIV. Commemoration of World AIDS Day has become a one day event where the entire world remembers and talks about HIV. But  the concerns and needs around care and support of thousands of children living with HIV and their siblings remain unaddressed ?

Currently in Tamilnadu ,children are benefitted through two programs from the government, one providing ART medicines to children living with HIV and one time annual education support to children living with HIV who are double orphaned (loss of both parents).

Some of the rising issues that calls for concern are:

  • Advancements in research has offered medications that has enabled many children living with HIV pass through adolescence and even become adults, as we take pride in that, we also need to reflect whether we have supported the children to handle peer-pressure, educated them on sexual and reproductive health, marriage and future planning.
  • The issue of bride price is emerging among children who have crossed 18 years and they are offered in marriage to an aged person. Recently a 18 year old girl living with HIV was offered 3 lakhs as deposit to her mother and uncle to marry a 40 year old HIV positive adult.
  • Child marriages are common among affected young girls(girls are not HIV infected),especially those under the care of aged grandparents and realtives.
  • Adolescent children living with HIV are not adhering to drugs with lack of skills in coping with the status and even negative pressures from the family and community.
  • Both infected and affected boys are stopping school and getting engaged in cheap labour to support the family income

It calls for an attention to create a child centric model that is principled to love, listen, learn and lead adolescent children as it’s approach to build  the lives of the children to effectively tackle the challenges and set futuristic goals so as to live positively. Will the government and concerned stakeholders wake up to this call??

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