No one knows who named her Mishti. But when the four-year-old storms back from playschool, throws her bag on the floor, stomps her feet and demands to know why she is forced to have medicine everyday, you cannot help but smile.
There is no easy way to answer the questions from an HIV positive child. Mishti is one of the 65,000 Indian children living with AIDS. The Naz Foundation India Trust, the only private clinic looking after AIDS orphans, is home to 30 HIV positive orphans who have been abandoned by their extended families after their parents died of AIDS. The youngest child is 18-month-old, while the eldest is Saurav, a 13-year-old from Haridwar.
"I sing well and am learning to play the harmonium. I think Hrithik Roshan is good, but Abhishek Bachchan needs to get better," says Saurav.
What the bright eyes do not reveal is the harrowing story that led him to Naz. "Eight years ago, his father and step-mother told him to wait at Nehru Place while they got a bottle of water. They did not come back. He doesn't know they abandoned him, but thinks he got lost and worries that his parents must be still looking for him," said Dr Suresh Upadhyay, medical director, Naz Foundation. Saurav was found by the Delhi Police and sent to Butterflies, an NGO that works with children. When he tested positive for HIV, he was handed over to Naz Foundation.
"Most of the children go to school or playschool. The foundation runs daily check-ups to monitor their health," said Anjali Gopalan, executive director of the Naz Foundation.
Most of the children at Naz do not know they are HIV positive. "Many children are on medication and when they realise their friends in school do not have to take medicines, they ask a lot of questions. We have asked them to not tell others about the medication to ensure they are not ill-treated by their teachers or peers. We tell them they are special and have HIV but they don't know what it means," adds Dr Upadhyay.
" I have seen cases where children born with HIV have married and had children. It just needs a lot of hard work, medical and psychological intervention," said Gopalan. With the government launching the National Paediatric HIV/AIDS initiative to provide free HIV treatment to children below 15 years, they are likely to stay healthy for a long time.
Children and HIV
Children under 15 account for 1 in 6 AIDS-related deaths in the world
A child under 15 dies of an AIDS-related illness every minute, and a person aged 15-24 gets HIV every 15 seconds
About 1,500 children will get free paediatric doses of antiretroviral drugs from today