A child with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) who was abandoned by her mother nine years ago has found shelter in the home of a Muslim family in Mumbai.
In 2007, Farhan and Naziya (names changed to protect identity), who were unable to have their own child, took home an abandoned 15-day-old girl from a hospital in Byculla.
“A woman I knew told me to take the child and asked me to clear the hospital bill of Rs3,000. I was told that the mother didn’t want to keep the child and we were keen on having a baby,” said Naziya who works as a domestic help. She said the only thing they knew about the mother was that she was Hindu.
Only after years did the couple find out that the biological mother was infected with HIV and the child had also acquired it. The couple realised the girl, Safiya, was falling sick very often. “Her nails started turning black. She developed piles for which we got her operated. She fell ill every month,” said Naziya, who said the girl also had ulcers in the mouth.
As she fell ill so often, doctors suspected the child of having an infection that was weakening her immunity. “I even contacted the woman who had helped us get Safiya to know if her biological mother knew about any ailments that Safiya has. I was told she had passed away,” said Naziya.
The couple got Safiya tested for several infections before an HIV screening in January 2014 found that she was infected.
“They came to me with this child who barely weighed 14kg. She had tuberculosis,” said Dr IS Gilada, who runs an HIV clinic in Grant Road.
Doctors first treated Safiya for tuberculosis. However, she will need lifetime medication to control the HIV infection. “She has improved drastically and weighs around 21kg now,” said Dr Gilada. “When we found out that the girl had HIV, we thought Naziya, being the mother, would be infected too. When I asked Naziya, she told me that Safiya was adopted.”
“I will care for her till I am alive,” said Naziya. Safiya is now attending an English-medium school in suburban Mumbai.
The couple has managed to register Safiya as its own child. “We told the officials that Safiya was born to me at home,” said Naziya.
The author tweets as @priyankaKvora