Around 70% of all children living with HIV picked up the infection from their mothers during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding. A pregnant woman can send out the virus to her fetus through their shared blood circulation, or a nursing mother can transmit it to her baby in her milk.
In many cases in India the infants or newborns also get the infection through blood via blood exchanges or needle sharing from mother to child.
Children are being turned away from schools, clinics and orphanages because they or their family members are HIV-positive. HIV in India has been a forbidden topic for years, and to a large amount it remains so today.
The result is that a growing number of helpless children are facing a cycle of abuse, neglect, condemnation, poor nutrition, poverty and disease.
According to the statement, India has the third largest HIV-Positive population in the world, with is an approximated 2 million. Many thousands of children have become orphaned due to HIV, and some of them are HIV-positive themselves, with no one to care for them or help them get the treatment they need to maintain their health.
Today I am going to talk about Susmitha, Age 8 years. She tells me she is in her last year of Primary school.
“How long have you lived at this orphanage?” I ask.
“From the time I lost my parents till this day.” She says.
The first thing I notice about Susmitha is her smile. Her eyes are filled with the astoundment of a child on the point of becoming a teenager, full of life and dreams for the future.
She goes to school just like her 8 years old peers and says that she wants to study more to become a skilled professional.
Susmitha was born in a small village near to Hyderabad, India to HIV positive parents. After Susmitha mother died of AIDS and Susmitha became too ill to stay at home or school. Soon after her dad passed away, she was all alone. No one was coming forward to look after her and she had many needs being only 3 years. One of the local pastor’s who was familiar with her family took care of her for a while. The Pastor approached New Vision Care Centre Orphanage to look after Susmitha. New vision subsequently partnered with few hospitals and treatment was started.
Susmitha starting treatment in 2014, Susmitha has recovered from opportunistic infections, her strength has returned and she has grown and gained weight. She now lives at this orphanage.
Susmitha has made many new friends at school, both HIV positive and negative — all go to school together and live happy lives. I hope she will achieve her dreams and aspirations with help from these kind hearted people..
Susmitha’s story is a portrait of India’s multi-generational cycle of HIV. A wife is infected by her husband, then the child becomes infected at birth. Later the child becomes an orphan when one or both parents die, or the surviving parent abandons the child. People living with HIV will sometimes withhold their sickness from their new partners due to shame, which further continues the cycle.
Author: Mohan Jidla, Apache Pine Volunteer.