Rays of Hope

HIV/AIDS is a serious problem in India for many years. The focus of intervention has been only on the sexually active population. Children, who are the silent victims of this ailment remained completely neglected. Considered a solely sexually transmitted disease then, affected children, were condemned by the society at large with little or no acceptance from their families and friends too. While research manifested the gravity of medical, psychological, social and several other related issues among children arising due to this infection, very little was done to help them. And considering the need of this marginalised section, Prof. Meenakshitai identified the need to work for such children.

Rays of Hope is an initiative to work with children infected/ affected with HIV/AIDS, and bring rays of hope in their lives. This program was started in June 2005 as a pilot project in association with Save the Children, Canada and UK. The aim was to a) provide support to these children in the form of nutrition, medicines, foster care, educational sponsorship and counselling, b) generate awareness in colleges, schools and communities, and c) develop support groups at the community level.

The program works with a two-pronged approach. The focus ison providing a high protein and nutritious diet and supplements, to increase their CD4 count.With consultation from doctors and dieticians working in this field, certain protein rich foods were identified, and supplied to these children as monthly grocery packets. These packets consist of wheat, jowar, broken wheat, a variety of pulses, eggs and oil. Children who are more undernourished are additionally given packets containing groundnuts, jaggery, dates and milk. Contents of the grocery packets are changed to avoid monotony in consultation with dietician. This has been a highly successful approach, with all the beneficiaries having improved health and increased CD4 counts.

Since most of the children are either orphaned or have a single surviving parent, their grandparents or extended families are encouraged to take care of these children. In such cases, grocery support is extended to the whole family along with the beneficiary child. Secondly, institutionalization of these children is considered to be the last resort.

Other aspects of a child’s well being too, like physical health, mental, emotional, creative and social growth are also looked after in this program.

Physical health - Infected children are vulnerable to infections, and serious efforts are needed to maintain their physical health. In addition to their diet, support is also extended for medicines during hospitalization. Health camps are conducted regularly at centers. Information and counseling on ART(Anti-Retroviral Treatment), etc are given to their parents or caretakers, by doctors. Workshops are also organized for adolescent children to create awareness on topics such as love, attraction, health, hygiene, physical and psychological changes.

Mental and Emotional Health - Realization of being HIV positive, always leads to the children getting depressed. Swadhar team continuously works on ways to keep them cheerful and occupied in various activities. They also make regular home visits to ensure that their parents or caretakers do not leave them alone.

Social health - All festivals are celebrated and the children are made to participate in them. These children hardly get a chance to go out and explore the outside world. Trips/picnics are arranged for them. It’s a temporary relief and enjoyment for them from harsh reality. Social gatherings are also organized with support from Rotary Club and other private donors. These gatherings not only help reducing isolation of the children, but also their interactions with people helps changing people’s attitude towards them and reduces the stigma against these innocent victims.

Creative health - Activities like drawing, craft, essay writing, singing and dancing are very useful media for children to express their creativity and abilities. Hence workshops are organized for children in Origami, Warli Art etc. They are also encouraged to participate in competitions.

Case Studies

Aakash finds his silver lining

Aakash and his younger brother were born to HIV positive parents. He learnt of his own condition and his family’s

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I have been giving donation to ‘Akshaedeep’ project under “Swadhar’ for the last 5-6 years Vidyanand M.Ranade, Govt. of Maharashtra

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