You can DREAM beyond HIV/AIDS and there is life after HIV

Shalini, is a B.Sc graduate in Nutrition and dietetics and is now currently working as a Trainee-Child Care Coordinator at Buds of Christ. Her journey in attaining this degree has not been an easy one and we at Buds of Christ take this opportunity to share some of the challenges that she had successfully overcome.

Having born in a family of three daughters, Shalini being the third child, was an unwanted child. She was sick as an infant and being a girl she was not fondled. Her paternal grand parents were more forceful in killing her as an infant rather than helping her survive. Her mother was very firm in keeping her but Shalini's immunity was very low and was often falling sick and repeatedly hospitalized.

This went on for more than one year and she was diagnosed with HIV, and only later her mother and father also knew about their status. When she was 5 years old, her father became very sick and died within few months.

As Shalini was the only HIV positive child including her parents in the family, she used to travel to Chennai every month for accessing the free treatment. The loss of her father greatly affected her. The insecure feeling overwhelmed her mother that took Shalini and herself to fall before the lorry to commit suicide due to the stigma of the HIV infection. Later she remembered her other two daughters and regretted the action.

Shalini studied in an aided school, where because of her HIV status, she was either made to stand last or rejected in school annual programs. These instances hurt her so much and in addition, due to the side effects of the treatment she developed a skin infection that caused black patches all over her body which completely devastated her. She even tried to stop the life long medication for sometime in an attempt to kill herself.

As her status was known in the community, some of them in her community treated her sympathetically and some discriminated her openly. She still recalls an incident that happened when she was in 8th standard "I was very upset, when the granny next door poured the pot of water that I brought for her out of good will“

Even her relatives and others at home, usually point her as a sick child, which only discouraged her further. It was, when she was almost completing her 8th standard that she started attending the programs of Buds of Christ for HIV positive children. She found a great support, as all the children she met and discussed shared similar experiences of HIV stigma. This created a support system for her in realizing that she was not the only one, there are many like her.

From then on, she started attending the meetings regularly and even got involved actively as a volunteer. After 8th , she moved to another school and started performing well in academics.

Shalini desires to be with other children born with HIV like her
"I felt a sense of great achievement in passing my 10th with 65%. I could not believe it was me and then with further encouragement and support, I passed my 12th standard too with first class. I thought that was my maximum ability, but Buds of Christ encouraged me to go ahead with graduation too. Though I was not confident, I went ahead. I enjoyed the college time, but had arrears too. Then I got the motivation when my mentors related me as a role-model for other HIV positive children to follow and that encouraged me to pass in all the subjects and now happy I am a graduate in Nutrition and Dietetics and gained the ability to work".

Shalini is now the first graduate among HIV positive children, she is open about her HIV status and setting a model for others like her that they too can dream beyond their HIV status, be bold and understand that there is life even after HIV.

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