TODAY -

AIDS 2022: Children and young people turning adversities into stepping stones

Shobha Shukla *



In the lead up to this year’s 24th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2022), which is being held in Montreal, Canada, we at CNS (Citizen News Service) spoke to some young people who were born with HIV. They have overcome insurmountable challenges and obstacles in their childhood and adolescence, and are trailblazers for others, thanks to the support they got from Sneha Charitable Trust whose ‘I’mpossible’ programme, has improved the lives of these budding young adults of Snehagram across Southern India.

“Do not give up ever”, says Neha

One of the most heart-touching stories is of 23 years old Neha (name changed to respect confidentiality) from Goa, India. An only child, she was born with HIV and lived in Goa till the unfortunate demise of her parents.

“I lost my father and mother when I was 12 years old. They were both on medication for TB. But their HIV positive diagnosis came too late to save them. After their demise, I stayed with my aunt and, thanks to her, I joined a hostel in Mangaluru to continue my education till 12th standard,” shared Neha.

Neha has been taking antiretroviral medicines from the age of 13 years. But when she also got TB she had to move out of the hostel as “the school authorities were afraid that other children might get infected with TB through me.”

That was when she joined ‘Sneha Sadan’ or Sneha Care Home or Snehagram in Karnataka. Snehagram’s mission is ‘to ensure quality of life and future of the vulnerable children infected with HIV and lead them to a healthy and productive adulthood, by addressing their real and felt needs on education, health, psycho-social support, vocational training and life skill education’.

“There is more stigma and discrimination in society for girls living with HIV, as compared to boys. I faced it at home after my parents died. But my aunt stood by me. Stigma outside the home was of a different kind. People generally do not know the difference between HIV and AIDS. They treat people living with HIV to be the same as those having AIDS. If they have proper knowledge then they would perhaps care better for people living with HIV,” she said.

Despite contracting TB three times, before finally getting cured of it, and despite being on life long antiretroviral medication, Neha has come a long way. She has completed her graduation in Commerce and is among those who will get to present at AIDS 2022. “I am very excited to be presenting an e-poster on ‘Enhancing lives of children in HIV-positive widow-headed households’ in Montreal, Canada. This will be my first travel outside of India.”

Her message is to end all forms of HIV related stigma and discrimination. “We should not give up when faced with challenges. We should grow up and dare to dream, and work towards achieving our ambitions. We should also be reaching out to others in need of help, so that we can stand up for ourselves, and become role models for others.”

From “impossible” to “I’m possible”: A life influencing journey of Kaleshwar

The life of 22 years old Kaleshwar, who was born with HIV in Bidar in Karnataka state of India, bears a powerful testimony of transition from the seemingly ‘Impossible’ to ‘I’m possible’.

Kaleshwar said that, “I lost my parents to HIV due to lack of medication and proper guidance. My father passed away in 2006 and my mother in 2010 when I was just 10 years old. But I was lucky to have got the support of my uncle and aunt who had no children of their own and were ready to take care of me.”

“With help from networks working on HIV care programmes, I was introduced to ‘Sneha Sadan’ in Bengaluru. That was a new beginning of life for me- going to school, as well as interacting with other children living with HIV. A lot of learning came from this exposure. Those of us who had a family, were allowed to meet them occasionally and annually to keep the family bonds alive. But when it comes to relationships, it is not as strong as it would have been with our parents (if they were alive). But this is no longer a challenge for me as I am able to understand these things much better now”, he added.

Surmounting challenges, Kaleshwar is now studying for an MBA. He is also working with Sneha Charitable Trust, taking a major lead in “I'mPossible fellowship programme” through a peer-leader approach to increase access to health, education, social protection and sustainable livelihood linkages for adolescents and young people born and living with HIV.

Power of education to transform lives

“I see education as one of the main pillars to empower adolescents and children living with HIV. While proper medication has helped us lead a near healthy life like anyone else, we have not done much on the education front and many are not able to get the facilities to support them through basic or higher education” said Kaleshwar.

“Health does not bring us knowledge, even though it keeps us alive. But education is with which we can build our careers and our identity in society. So education should be prioritized for all, as part of the HIV care programmes. By education I mean both formal education- what we get through schools and colleges- and informal education where we are educated through our peers, relatives, friends, doctors to learn about various aspects and values of life” he added.

Kaleshwar is “Very excited to have got the opportunity to attend AIDS 2022 as a youth representative from India and hope to get a lot of exposure and understanding of various minds and cultures. This will be my first international trip.”

His message for the youth: “One thing that has supported me is the exposure and the opportunities I have got. If, like me, one grows up in a place where one is encouraged to advance one’s career, it makes a lot of difference. So the vision should be to Create opportunities, and build exposures for our growth.”

Sport teaches us never to give up in life, says Babu Seenappa

22 years old Babu Seenappa, who was born with HIV, has run several marathons globally, getting accolades since his first run in 2009. He has taken up sports as a medium of transformation and to spread the message of hope. He facilitates HIV infected and affected children, helping them to keep healthy by introducing running in their lives.

Babu comes from Bidar. He lost his father at the age of 4 years and his mother when he was 7 years old. After his parents’ death, he coped with dejection and ill-treatment from other family members, who harboured misunderstandings about HIV. “When my uncles and aunts got to know that I was HIV positive, they started isolating me, keeping a separate set of utensils for me. They also started speaking ill of my dead parents and accused my mother of bringing HIV in the family through her immoral behaviour. They wanted to get rid of me. Luckily they found this place with the help of a social worker”, he said.

Thus he was brought to Sneha Care Home in Bangalore where “I rebuilt my childhood and grew up to be an adolescent. Now I am a mentor in the “I’mpossible Fellowship programme. I also teach psychology and environmental science to children.”

Babu feels that awareness on how HIV transmits has risen and people now do understand that HIV is not as infectious as coronavirus and that there is no need to isolate a person living with HIV. But some HIV-related stigma and myths still abound.

“Many people still believe that HIV is transmitted only through sexual contact. As long as you are a child living with HIV, they will understand that it was transmitted from the mother during childbirth. They believed me that I was born with HIV till I was a child. But now, when I am a grown up, many think I got it because of my promiscuous behaviour. During my visits abroad I was shocked to meet some well-educated youth who had very little idea about the different routes of HIV transmission. A lot has to be done in the general population and in the community to dispel such myths”, he said.

Running as a way of life

“I started running at the age of 9. My first run was a two kilometres race in 2009 that offered a cash prize of INR 500 to the winner. I came almost last in the race but my coach saw some potential in me. So I started training seriously and from the slowest I became the fastest runner in my group and people started looking at me as their role model. I became healthier, stronger and more confident. I have taken part in many marathons in many countries,” said Babu.

“I saw that there is no discrimination in running. It does not matter if the runner is living with HIV or not. They treat a runner just like any other person. I shared my experiences of running and spread the message of hope to others living with HIV that you are no less than anyone else and can compete in the same manner as those who are HIV negative. I have now started training around 50 children for running. Sports teaches us never to give up in life”, he added.

He is also a presenter at AIDS 2022. His e-poster is on “Say yes to physical fitness: The impact of a structured physical activity program on health outcomes amongst children and adolescents living with HIV in South India.”

Babu’s message: “Please give equal opportunities to every child and they will prove your prejudiced notions about HIV-infected children wrong. They will match or surpass your expectations. Giving an opportunity is the first step to dispel the darkness in the lives of children living with HIV.”

The statistics in India’s Karnataka state reveal the severity of the challenges facing the over 16,000 youth with HIV who attempt to live on their own in mainstream society:

- 30% become non-compliant with taking daily HIV medications because of hopelessness, poverty or inability to navigate public resources, resulting in high rates of complications and co-infections like TB.

- 40% cannot continue their education

- 25% get only temporary employment as labourers and have no opportunities for up-skilling

- 40% have no reliable support system, resulting in social isolation and severe psychological problems

Whether it is preventing parent to child transmission of HIV, or ending all forms of HIV related stigma and discrimination, there is so much more we can, and could have done, to make life more humane for those living with the virus. It is important for governments to ensure that free antiretroviral therapy and a broad range of HIV care services reach people living with HIV uninterruptedly and make them virally suppressed. In the current times, with science-backed HIV care services, no one should be suffering from AIDS.


* Shobha Shukla wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is the award-winning founding Managing Editor and Executive Director of CNS (Citizen News Service) and is a feminist, health and development justice advocate.
She is a former senior Physics faculty of prestigious Loreto Convent College and current Coordinator of Asia Pacific Regional Media Alliance for Health and Development (APCAT Media).
Follow her on Twitter @shobha1shukla
This article was posted on July 27, 2022.


* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.




LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Linthoi Chanambam : First Judo Gold Medalist
  • COVID-19 Status 28 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2022 #4: Gallery
  • Sore Admiration :: Poem
  • Accountant Assistant @ Amber & Arthur
  • World Heart Day 2022
  • Indo-Naga Talks (2012-) :: News Timeline
  • COVID-19 : Impact in Manipur :: News Timeline
  • Plastic menace: Time over for warning
  • Promoting cycling in Imphal
  • Mera Chaorel Houba @ Kangla #1 :: Gallery
  • Tripura Fashion Week @ Agartala :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 27 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • ST status demands in India #2
  • Socio-cultural tourism in NE India
  • Investigation against CRPF Personal
  • Backache in diabetics: Never ignore it
  • 'Poison' liquor still favourite for commoners
  • What has happened to the ban on SUP ?
  • Maibi Jagoi @ Thangjing Haraoba :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 26 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Lamyanba Irabot Ningsing Tha : Plantation
  • World Pharmacists Day 2022
  • Workshop of Wildlife Crime Prevention
  • Genius is knowing when to stop !
  • Naga final pact as Nagaland polls near
  • Lifting prohibition : Talk of the day
  • Tarpon Chaklen Katpa @ Andro #1 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 25 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Lamyanba Irabot Ningsing Tha : Fingerlings
  • Tripura Fashion Week in Agartala
  • World River Day & our environment
  • Nubank : banking industry in Brazil
  • Opposition parties struggling to dent BJP
  • From High Court to Supreme Court ?
  • Lokchao Bridge @ NH 102 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 24 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • What were Phizo's last words to Khodao?
  • Priyadarshini, Priyanka: Everest Taekwondo
  • I swear :: Poem
  • Incomplete lifting of prohibition
  • Prevention of parasitism in livestock #2
  • Wakhal Eronba- Sumang Leela #1 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 23 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Arbin Tonjam: best designer - Miss Manipur
  • Lamyanba Irabot Ningsing Tha at Ithing
  • Ferry to Ganges :: Poem
  • Making public health messaging entertaining
  • Student schooling order exposes fault...
  • Discipline : The common thread
  • Camping @ Shirui Lily Fest #1 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 22 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Youth : An idea can change the world
  • Perceived class conflict triggers friction ...
  • The tale of a forgotten diary
  • Face Redness- How to get rid of it
  • CADA - Govt on collision course
  • Inching towards a final pact ?
  • Border Pillar Inspection @Kamjong :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 21 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Strange bed fellows attempting to cohabit
  • Training for entrepreneur in Food Processing
  • Recalling Alzheimer once again !
  • New Education Policy : The CUET rigmarole
  • Liquor for better health! Indigestible
  • Now focus on ST demand
  • Byron Aihara - A True Lover of Manipur
  • International Day of Peace 2022
  • Human Capital Formation, need of the hour
  • Prevention is better than cure !!
  • Prevention of parasitism in livestock #1
  • Security Conference at Tamenglong
  • Concrete action must follow 'CM Da Haisi'
  • Tag of a dry State for the last 30 years
  • Pungyam Yeiba Fest @Singjamei :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 19 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • National Bamboo Innovation Challenge
  • International Day of Peace & environment
  • Lamyanba Irabot Ningsing Tha: Social Service
  • World Bamboo Day celebrated
  • Domestic capitalists unwilling to trust & invest
  • Street food vogue boon for youth
  • Sit-ins demanding inclusion in ST list
  • Down Memory Lane: My Years with MSAD #3
  • COVID-19 Status 18 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Licypriya to attend UN General Assembly
  • Screenwriters invited to 6-month screenlab
  • An ideal civil servant
  • Tripura Fashion Week in Agartala
  • Opposition parties struggling to dent BJP
  • Taking the customer for granted
  • Miss Manipur 2022 #2 :: Gallery
  • Irabot Ningsing Tha : Jagoi Competition
  • Bringing drug users to mainstream society
  • Namo Birthday special: India matters globally
  • Criticizes village occupation in Ukhrul
  • Use of local agri wastes as substrate
  • Jiribam Keithel [15 June] #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 16 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Boeing University Innovation Leadership
  • ST status demands in India #1
  • Literacy enhancement as a career choice
  • Agniveer recruitment rally at Assam
  • Ignoring the perfect solution to everything
  • Eyeing to end insurgency in next 5 years
  • Laklaroi Amuk Hanna Yeningtha #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 15 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Manipuri Muslim (Pangal) Historical Society
  • 7th election: NE Student Org, Jalandhar
  • Macnivil releases new song: Price they'll pay
  • Youth advocating for sexual health & rights
  • Engineers : The backbone of any Nation
  • IBSD celebrated Hindi Diwas
  • Who is at fault for shrinking roads?
  • After 25 years of negotiations
  • Heikru Hidongba @Bijoy Govinda #2: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 14 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Joint Accordant by NSCN/GPRN & NNPGs
  • In search of Khubak Ishei
  • Lamyanba Irabot Ningsing Tha at Bishnupur
  • Beauty benefits of Amla
  • STDCM sets sight on bandh to draw Govt
  • The unplanned city of Imphal Concrete jungle
  • Down Memory Lane: My Years with MSAD #2
  • COVID-19 Status 13 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Constitution & flag still dogs settlement
  • Churachandpur - The chaos and mess !
  • Rice Afrika is using tech to increase rice
  • Voluntary Blood Donation: An act of solidarity
  • Nagaland desperate for solution to Naga issue
  • Final solution likely very soon: Note key word
  • Miss Manipur 2022 #1 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 12 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Is there a need for another Nupi Lan ?
  • Consultation: Development at Lairouching
  • Bullying : Losing of children's dignity
  • Social Entrepreneur, social currency they earn
  • AMSU in dire need of support of CSOs
  • Mum on the points of JCILPS, STDCM
  • 57th Hunger Marchers' Day #3 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 11 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • 1st Anniv: The Keithel Store Pune :: Gallery
  • Beyond Teachers' Day
  • On farm production of Mycorrhizae
  • Onam and the legend behind it
  • COVID-19 Status 10 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Fake voters testify official nepotism
  • From 1999 to 2022 : TSE is now 23
  • Yaoshang Thabal Competition #3 :: Gallery
  • Kholao Deben went with the Queen
  • Imaginary grudge severs human relations
  • A Phenomenally Him :: Poem
  • Bharat Jodo Yatra: Last ditch effort...
  • Special Lok Adalat for Imphal & Bishnupur
  • Pineapple Fest @Bunglon, CCpur :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 09 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Tarpon: Annual offerings to the dead by living
  • Book review: Aeromycology over Kachai lemon
  • On saying Hello
  • Himalayan Day celebrated at IBSD, Imphal
  • Get rid of strawberry legs at home
  • Manipuri driver primary source of 'Loyalty tax'
  • The 'tax-extortion' argument
  • Down Memory Lane: My Years with MSAD #1
  • COVID-19 Status 08 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • [Jobs] Biotechnology ignition grant for NE
  • 1st Anniversary of The Keithel Store Pune
  • International Literacy Day & our Environment
  • 1 Lakh Hand Sanitizer Bottles handed over
  • Pinning hope on Sangai fest to draw tourists
  • Points to study from Mizoram
  • Heikru Hidongba @Bijoy Govinda #1: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 07 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Schedule Tribe Demand, Recent cries
  • Intricacies of core issue in Naga insurgency
  • On Poiroukhongjin High School issue
  • Celebrating International Literacy Day, 2022
  • Condemn physical assault on women vendor
  • Scoundrel official undermining essence of ILP
  • Is the ban on SUP effective ?
  • Ayekpam Shyamsunder's life & works
  • Book release: 'Osman Thambal' at Imphal
  • World Sexual Health Day celebrated in NE
  • Manipur Tech Univ: top at India Hackathon
  • Insomnia :: Poem
  • Change - Inside Out!
  • Biological control in agriculture #2
  • Nearest-to-home posting of teachers policy
  • Addressing shortage of teachers
  • Ibudhou Thangjing Haraoba #6 :: Gallery
  • Ancient Manipur kingdom and Brahmanism
  • Teachers' role in multicultural North East
  • Regarding closing 34 Assam govt schools
  • mPharma is revolutioning access to medicine
  • Asking to believe as we receive
  • 10 years of TPC: Success collectively shared
  • Significance of observing Teachers' Day
  • Krishna Janma @ ISKCON :: Gallery
  • Growing support globally to end HIV medicine
  • Teachers' Day & My Rumbling Thoughts
  • Soibam Bindeshori : Indian Prime Icon Award
  • Can't public figures drink & dance
  • Climate emergency
  • Jumping ship trademark of state's politicians
  • Switching side from JD (U) to BJP
  • Sit-in for Meetei ST @ Kongba :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 03 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Humanitarian aid to Meira Paibis leaders
  • Down the memory lane :: Poem
  • A moment of introspection
  • Ganesh collection
  • Addl Director General, NCC homage at INA
  • Meira Rally against Drug Traffic #2 :: Gallery
  • September Calendar for Year 2022 : Tools
  • Haipou Jadonnang in History #2
  • Krishna, soul of Indian classical dance
  • Biological control in agriculture #1
  • Additional Director General, NCC, NE
  • Senapati farmers commit to curb poppy
  • School Fagathansi & shortage of teachers
  • 57th Hunger Marchers' Day #2 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 01 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Is NSCN-IM looking for a way to exit...
  • Delhi Youtuber honoured by Nagaland Govt
  • Multistoried cropping system for North East
  • Herbal remedies for sun-tan in monsoon
  • Agniveer Recruitment Rally for Manipur
  • Improve irrigation network
  • Pending final pact, ST demand, prohibition
  • Reception of Linthoi Chanambam :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 31 August : Govt of Manipur
  • Applications from sportspersons for awards
  • Faith in the Lord: The evidence of things
  • Aadhaar link with Voter ID should be optional
  • Session with Jail Officials & Inmate at Sajiwa
  • Scam related to job & educational opportunity
  • Widening list of drug dealers
  • Understanding the idea of CUET
  • Jiribam Train station [15 Jun] :: Gallery
  • Haipou Jadonang martyr day at Jiribam
  • How citizens evaluate performance of MLA
  • Daslakshan Festival
  • All you needed was a little more courage
  • National Sports Day in Tamenglong
  • Bid to promote state's largest cottage industry
  • On lending support and entrepreneurship
  • Haipou Jadonang - Martyr Day :: Gallery
  • Linthoi and Manipur Olympics
  • Linthoi Ch: gold at World Cadet Judo
  • Patriots' Day @Thangal Complex :: Gallery
  • Jhulon Festival: Nupee Pala #2 :: Gallery
  • 13 August observed by CSOs :: Gallery
  • Mirabai Chanu: gold @ Commonwealth Game
  • Rules of English Pronunciation : Download
  • Sub-Syllables in English : Book Download