Waiting for Death – Surviving HIV
Looking after AIDS orphans and providing them with as much positive energy as possible is the simple objective of a small institution in Sangli, one of the worst HIV-affected districts in western Indian state of Maharashtra. Set up in 1992, Bhagini Nivedita Pratishthan initially looked after 30 HIV women and taught them skills that could help them earn a living. But, with the rapidly increasing problem of AIDS orphans, they changed the focus of their work from 1997, and set up facilities for orphans below the age of 18.
Founded by Sangli residents Kusumtai Ghanekar and Kamaltai Jog, the institution now runs a school-cum-hostel for HIV–affected boys and girls. “Initially, the immunity levels of the children were so low that one child would die every fortnight. With each death, the children would ask us, who’s next?” says Secretary of the foundation, Nasim Shaikh. Ghanekar then researched and studied the nuances of the problem for two months, and devised a special regime of diet and exercise which has drastically reduced the death rate. The state-run schools do not admit these children. Therefore, the institution also runs a school, and with special permission from the government, the children are allowed to appear for their exams. “Their average life is for 10 to 12 years. Why not give them as much happiness as possible? Like any normal children, they are crazy about film stars. The world outside the hostel needs to do its bit. With their participation and global support, we can give them a better life,” says Shaikh.
According to UNAIDS statistics, 38 million adults and 2.3 million children were afflicted with AIDS in 2005, which is 50 per cent more than the 1991 WHO estimate. In 2005, 700,000 children aged 14 or younger were infected with HIV, and by 2003 the epidemic had left behind 15 million AIDS orphans. Around 1.1 million people in Asia were estimated to be afflicted in 2005.
Mis. Nasim Shaikh, President at Bhagini Nivedita Pratishthan, Sangli. Contact no 0233-2376780, Mobile- 9822013186.