Ostracized by his family after his father was tested positive for HIV in Noida’s district hospital, nine-year-old Raju (name changed) is today a victim of misconceptions regarding acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and prejudice against infected persons.
On Thursday, Raju was sent to a child shelter home in Noida after his family members in Kolkata allegedly refused to accept him when they learnt about his father’s illness.
His father, a mason from West Bengal, had come to Noida 15 days ago to get treated for various ailments. On Tuesday, doctors at the District Hospital confirmed after a blood test that he was HIV positive.
While the blood test of the child was conducted on Thursday (the report is awaited), his father was diagnosed with HIV on Tuesday and was admitted to Delhi’s Lok Nayak hospital on Thursday.
The patient then reportedly sought the help of city activists to get his son to a shelter home as he decided to ‘maintain’ a distance from him.
“He constantly kept telling us that please send my son to child shelter as I can no longer stay with him and even when I die, the NGOs can look after him,” said a Noida resident, at whose house the patient and his son had been staying for the past 15 days.
The child’s grandparents allegedly refused to accept him back, fearing he may be infected.
“It is most likely the child may not be affected because the victim had him with his first wife and if he had any infection, then the results would have shown earlier. Without any medication, it wouldn’t be possible for the child to survive if he was really infected. We are waiting for the report but I am 99% sure that the child is not affected,” said Satya Prakash, programme manager, FXB India Suraksha.
But there is another issue that is worrying, Prakash said. The victim has a second wife in Kolkata who is reportedly pregnant. “We are trying to reach out to his family so that we can conduct a test on the wife. She and her unborn child are at risk,” said Satya Prakash.
Experts say the fear regarding infection and common misconceptions are usually the reason why kids of HIV infected parents face discrimination.
“We usually notice that people from extended families refuse to accept the child if the parents are hospitalized with HIV and if they are from the lower strata of the society then they certainly don’t want it because then they have an additional mouth to feed. Plus there are so many misconceptions related to HIV that people are scared of infection even by the presence of the kid,” said Priti Patkar, director, Prerna, a child rights organization.