destroying the lives of millions in Africa and Southeast
Asia, AIDS is now ravaging India. Today, India is second
only to South Africa in HIV infections: official estimates
put the number of HIV infected men and
women at 3 million. Thanks to the slowness with which
the government has responded to this crisis and the
inadequacy of the resources it has employed to fight
the pandemic, the number is constantly on the rise.
Initially confined to high-risk categories such as intravenous
drug users and sex workers, the virus is spreading to
every age group, every profession, and every caste.
Andhra Pradesh has the dubious distinction of being
the state with the highest prevalence of the HIV virus:
about 10% of the total HIV cases in India live in Andhra.
As AIDS inexorably advances throughout the region, its
impact on the people we serve has grown ever more dramatic.
Every year, the virus deprives thousands of children
of their parents; an estimated 1.2 million AIDS orphans
live in India today. In addition, as time goes by more
and more of the children we rescue turn out to be HIV
positive. Many of Vijayawada’s street children are at high risk of contracting the disease,
as their lifestyle constantly exposes them to sexual
abuse and exploitation.
Care&Share is committed to fight the spread of HIV and to alleviate
the sufferings of children whose lives were so deeply
touched by AIDS. Butterfly Hill>> is giving hundreds of HIV+ children and AIDS orphans a new home. The hospital
that has been built on the campus will serve as a place where children already affected
with the disease can be given adequate medical care. Every child who lands on our doorstep is now tested for HIV. Immediate action is taken if they are found positive. Every child under our care is registered with the government's AIDS Control Programme; s/he is regularly tested and treated with ARV medicine.
commitment developed as we witnessed the devastating effects that this disease has
on the lives of children. As important as it is to quantify
the AIDS epidemic, it’s easy to miss this tragedy’s
true import if we overlook its distinctly human face.
Every AIDS victim and AIDS orphan has a unique story
to tell. We narrate the stories of Gopi and Durga below.
Gopi - From an email
Carol Faison sent out in 2003. “Two
days ago I visited ‘Toti’s Home.’ It is located
near the city center, not far from the office, and it is therefore
a convenient holding facility for the children we rescue. When
they arrive, dirty and disheveled, the runaway children look like
little adults. It’s only when a wash and a good meal make
them look like children again that you realize how vulnerable
they are. The children remain in Toti’s Home as we look
for their families and decide where they should go next.
I last visited Toti’s Home, I found three new arrivals,
their heads shaven, dressed in rags: an 8 year old girl, a 7 year
old boy, and a little 3 year old - Gopi. So adorable! The three
are siblings and have no one to care for them. Both of their parents
died of AIDS. In the past months, we have welcomed 40 children
to Daddy’s Home - some as young as 2 or 3 years old. Looking
at Gopi and his siblings, I thought it was time to give all of
them an HIV test. Today, as the testing was going on in Daddy’s
Home, I was working in the office. My thoughts were with the children
and often wondered what future lay ahead of them.
the doctor visited Toti’s Home, I went with him because
I wanted to be with the children. They lined up quietly. No one
cried. The first to be tested was little Gopi. I held him in my
arms while the others waited for their turn. I held him tight,
praying that he’d be alright - in fact, I knew he had been
conceived when his parents were already infected. Gopi remained
calm. He smiled. In the meantime, the other children played. It
was a dramatic moment, which would have revealed their destiny,
but the children looked happy and unaware. The drops of blood
that were being drawn were placed in a small dish filled with
a chemical solution. The adults in the room stood silently.
positive. I cannot describe the pain I felt holding this boy,
who is destined to be sick his entire life. I felt pity for his
brother and sister, who had already lost their parents and would
also one day lose their little brother. I wondered how it would
feel to have AIDS in the midst of healthy people who look at you
with fear, not with love. All these thoughts and emotions are
still with me. I am stunned.”
Durga - In
February of 2005, a young girl named Durga was brought to us by a man who had bought her at a bus stop
from the little girl’s dying parents years ago. Durga’s
parents had since died of an AIDS related illness. She has been
HIV positive since birth. When Durga was found to be HIV positive,
her adoptive mother ran away with her biological children. Durga’s
adoptive father, however, loved her and refused to abandon her.
He finally brought the girl to us.
was nine years old. When she arrived at our office she was severely
malnourished. Her hair was full of lice and falling out, her teeth
were rotting. At first, we didn’t think she could be saved,
yet we could tell there was still a good fight left in her. We
wanted to help this young girl, but we didn’t know how.
to Durga’s arrival, Care&Share had tested 500 out of over 8,000 children in our program, and
had found that 15 children were HIV positive. These children were
on a special diet and under constant observation, but none of
them had ever been in as bad a condition as Durga. Upon Durga’s
arrival, the Care&Share staff knew that this case was different.
of HIV/AIDS was limited - and we had no system in place to handle
cases such as hers. Far from being just an isolated case, however,
Durga is only the first of a series of similarly desperate cases
to end up on our doorstep. According to UNAIDS, Andhra Pradesh,
contains 8 out of the 41 AIDS “Hot Spots” - areas
where AIDS is on the rise- in India. The facilities to treat and
care for AIDS victims are few and inadequate.
has never heard of AIDS. She also doesn’t know that she
has taught us more about AIDS than any book, news article, or
TV special could ever teach us. She has added a human face to
the pandemic we have heard so much about.
USA: Care & Share USA Inc. — 223 Double Gate Way — Sugar Hill, GA 30518-8904 — Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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