On March 24, 2001 Infant Jesus Children’s Home (ideated by Mother Willigard of Deena-Seva Charitable Trust) was inaugurated at Kothanur to provide hope to HIV+ve children who are abandoned by their near and dear ones.
The trust also runs orphanages, centres for the mentally challenged, the visually impaired, deaf and mute destitutes, the aged and also terminally ill patients.
An inmate Sangeetha has just completed her SSLC examination and has plans to become a lawyer. She says, “I want to work for justice.” But it remains to be seen if her plans will come true and if she will be able to overcome discrimination. Especially when for no fault of hers, she has been diagnosed as an HIV +ve person and may have a shorter life span than most.
At the moment, the Infant Jesus Children’s Home accommodates 96 HIV affected children. In the same premises, the trust also runs a House of Mercy accommodating 30 destitute women, affected with HIV.
“My mother was HIV +ve even before I was born and soon passed away. My father married a second time and my stepmother entrusted me to Deena-Seva Charitable Trust,” says Sangeetha.
She adds, “I live happily here with my friends around me. I feel protected, loved and cared for.” “We have morning exercises for the children so that they keep healthy,” says Sr. Prathibha, the coordinator .
She further adds, “We also conduct dance and music classes for them to keep them entertained. We give vocational training in candle making, paper jewellery, clay pots, tailoring, and computers.”
“They are very talented children grasping whatever is taught to them in no time,” says Sr. Jessline, the caretaker of the children. The major problem is the challenge of how to settle the inmates in the future.
“We are trying to help the children by giving them counselling and providing them opportunities to interact with other children from different schools. They confide in me and I in them,” says Brenda Washington, the counsellor.
The centre also has babies born of HIV positive mothers and these little ones need medication, nutritious food and constant medical monitoring.
Dr Glory Alexander, the director of ASHA foundation, says, “If the mother is HIV +ve, then she can transmit the virus to the child during pregnancy, labour, delivery, and breast feeding. The transmission rates range from 20 per cent to 45 per cent in the absence of effective intervention and if the mother is helped with ART (antiretroviral treatment) then there are chances of this percentage to come down considerably.”
She adds, “Studies show that the children born of affected mothers do not die of AIDS but of undernourishment, pneumonia, diarrhea, and other causes unrelated to HIV. So it is advisable that the mother breastfeeds the child as it provides nutrients and antibodies.” The children are treated at different hospitals and when tests prove to be negative, t different adoption centres and non- governmental organizations step in.