Vikhroli resident Ravi, 16, feels sad and dejected when his relatives taunt him about his disease. Ravi, who is HIV positive, was only five years old when his parents died of HIV/AIDS and he had to move in with his uncle and grandmother.
“I am HIV positive, but that is not my fault. I am sad but nobody can understand my sorrow. My family used to only point at my faults. I was served stale food. I have gone to sleep on an empty stomach many a times,” he said on Wednesday.
Ravi, who was wearing a mask and carrying a placard saying, “We too want to shine like Taare Zameen Par”, was one of the 150 children with HIV/AIDS gathered at Azad Maidan to launch a children’s charter.
Chirag, a community health initiative and research action group started by the College of Social Work, Nirmala Niketan, unveiled the charter of demands that will be submitted to the state government to ensure support, care and basic rights of children with HIV/AIDS.
The charter is based on Chirag’s experiences of their work with HIV infected as well as affected children since its inception in 2005, said Dr Anitha Chettiar, director, Chirag, Nirmala Niketan.
Chirag’s action groups work out of Dharavi and Bhandup and are presently working with 200 such children through its work in communities and ART centres in JJ and Sion hospitals.
The event organised on the occasion of World AIDS Day, highlighted concerns of HIV positive children, who often drop out of schools due to ill health and stigma or those who are orphaned and begin working during childhood.
Manju (name changed) from Mankhurd is only 12 but has to support her two younger siblings. Manju’s parents died due to HIV/AIDS three years ago.
“My youngest brother got infected with HIV/AIDS. We miss our parents very much. I had to play a mother’s role to take care of my siblings and ensure that my brother takes his treatment on time,” said Manju.
“These children face problems like absenteeism in schools. If they are above 18 years, then this absenteeism is seen on the job front. They face a fear of social and economic insecurity,” said Dr Mary Alphonse, principal, College of Social Work, Nirmala Niketan.