Sixteen year old Prakash (name changed) of Bhadrak studies in a private college in the City. Living with HIV positive and the scare of AIDS has not, so far, been a stumbling block for him. He could consider himself a little lucky since he received the support to pursue academics. For, there are 51 other children living with the dreaded infection in the same district and they find life a challenge on a daily basis.
Poverty, struggle to access everyday medical needs, stigma and an uncertain future stare at these children living with HIV/AIDS (CLHAs) whose age range from three months to 16. At least eight of them have been diagnosed with full blown AIDS. Five of them have been orphaned by the disease while the rest have a single parent to look up to. In many cases, the parents are not in a position to support the children given their own precarious health condition because 95 per cent of these families are in the below poverty line (BPL) category.
All that the parents get is Rs. 300 a month from State Government's Madhubabu Pension Yojna but that is not enough to sustain them. Recently, some of the infected persons applied for Mo Kudia Yojana but not everyone comes forward since the scheme necessitates production of a patta and the people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHAs) are reluctant to reveal their identity.
The worst sufferers are the children though. "Apart from the allowance under Madhubabu Yojana, we are trying to arrange a sponsorship of Rs.1,000 a month for the children with support from Woman and Child Development Department. So far, we have arranged it for three children and will include more in the days to come," says Hemant Kumar Dash, Programme Manager of District AIDS Prevention and Control Unit of Bhadrak.
It is not in Bhadrak alone where the children living with HIV/AIDS face these hurdles. There are more than 700 of them across Ganjam, Angul, Balangir, Koraput, Balasore and Khurda which are highly vulnerable districts given the large scale migration.
The Odisha State AIDS Control Society (OSACS) said it is seized of the situation. Project Director Dhiren Kumar Patnaik said, apart from the support by way of medicine and resistance enhancement measures at Anti Retro-viral Treatment (ART) Centres, efforts are on to replicate the Ganjam model of creating a care home for the CLHAs in other districts.
The Ganjam District administration, with support from Red Cross, has opened a special care home where about 38 CLHAs are given regular medical attention and nutritional supplements. The children go to schools from the centre and return there at the end of the day. Since the children face opportunistic infections on a regular basis, Dash says, they need medical attention more often than others. In Bhadrak, Dhamra Port has come up with a support plan but more corporates need to come forward, he pointed out.
"The OSACS is also mulling if the infected could be given a patch of homestead land under Vasundhara Scheme of the Government. We had sent a team to Tamil Nadu which has adopted the scheme to study it and may submit a proposal to the Government soon," Patnaik informed.