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HIV/AIDS: The impact on Indian children

With specialist support, families affected by HIV are given hope
With specialist support, families affected by HIV are given hope

Today, India is home to the world's third-largest population suffering from HIV/AIDS. Beyond statistics, millions have been affected by the disease, including children whose parents are HIV-positive or have died of AIDS.

SOS Children provides specialist support to children and their parents who are living with HIV in India. Our community programmes work to prevent HIV infections, fight against the associated stigma and discrimination, and help those that need treatment to receive medication.  

Sangeeta's story

Sangeeta is in her thirties and lives with her three children in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Her husband died in April 2007, due to AIDS. After her husband’s death, Sangeeta worked as a casual labourer in the local market, so that she could meet her family's basic needs. However, she quickly realised that any kind of physical work was difficult as her health was so poor, and declining day by day.

Within three kilometres of where Sangeeta's family live is the SOS Children’s Village Latur. In July 2007, the SOS community programme discovered Sangeeta's troubling situation. She was advised to take the HIV test, and was diagnosed as HIV positive. Her children were diagnosed as 'reactive' (a preliminary positive result) and they are all now receiving the appropriate medication.

How many in India are affected by HIV/AIDS?

Sponsor a child Bhopal, India

India is home to the world's third-largest population suffering from HIV/AIDS (following South Africa and Nigeria). The estimated number of people living with HIV in India was 2.08 million in 2011. Thanks to an extensive anti-AIDS campaign, backed by political leadership and civil society, there has been a 50% decline in new HIV infections in the past decade.

However, this decline is not evenly spread across the country, and HIV prevalence rates vary between Indian states. Due to a variety of factors, prevalence is particularly high in southern and north-eastern regions, including in Manipur, Andrea Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Karnataka, as well as Mahrashtra, where Sangeeta lives.

Factors which influence HIV rates in India, include high levels of labour migration, low literacy levels (linked to a lack of health awareness), intravenous drug use and the use of commercial sex workers in certain urban pockets. In parallel, the decline in prevalence is attributed to increased condom use, and a raised awareness of HIV-prevention. To continue this success, UNAIDS says that India must now strive to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

The effect on families

When a parent is unwell and unable to work, responsibility may fall onto their children to provide care and income for the family. When a parent dies, children may be left with no-one to care for them. Therefore, HIV/AIDS interplays with other factors that put Indian children at risk: child labour, illiteracy and poverty.Behind these statistics are the millions of lives that have been affected by HIV/AIDS. In 2009, it was estimated that 170,000 people in India had died from AIDS. As in Sangeeta's case, it is not only the person with HIV/AIDS who suffers, but also their entire family. 

Hope for Sangeeta and her children

Puthupettai woman sewing machine FSP

Across India, SOS Children strives to expand people's access to health care and health education, and provide HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. We were able to provide Sangeeta and her family with a range of tailored services, so that they could be supported while living with HIV. They were advised to seek anti-retroviral treatment from the local government hospital in Latur. Their assigned SOS community worker now ensures they are getting the medicine as prescribed by the doctor.

Working closely with local agencies, such as the National AIDS Control Organisation, SOS Children provides Sangeeta with special counselling and one-to-one guidance. She has learnt about the major signs and symptoms of common opportunistic infections, and how they can be prevented and managed. There were also discussions about how to live positively and help to reduce the stigma and discrimination of HIV. Sangeeta's children also receive regular counselling by SOS community workers, and they learn about nutrition, hygiene and general well-being.

A mother's ambition

Although diagnosed as HIV positive, Sangeeta's ambition to have a better life motivated her to develop her professional skills. We helped her to attend a stitching and tailoring course, and she now holds a diploma from the government’s Industrial Training Institute.

Sangeeta borrowed a sewing machine from her sister and started accepting local stitching and tailoring jobs. Her new work income is topped up by financial support from the SOS community programme in Latur as well as a social security scheme for poor widows. Sangeeta is now able to feed her family and provide good care for them. Her health has improved, and all of her children go to school.

SOS Community Programmes across India

Group of children India

Sangeeta’s story is just one of many in Latur, and the SOS community programme there is just one example of our work in India. The aim of our community programmes is to support families at risk of abandoning their children and to encourage families to stay together. We are able to do this effectively by working with local authorities and organisations.

Within the SOS community programmes, a forum is provided where children can speak openly about the impact of HIV and AIDS on their lives. HIV prevention, workshops, training programmes, counselling and financial assistance for people living with HIV/AIDS are some of the services we offer to families.

Tomorrow in India

Tomorrow in India, more mothers can become healthy, ambitious, and financially independent. Tomorrow in India, HIV rates can be reduced. 

Tomorrow in India, a child can have a healthy future. This tomorrow is possible with your support today. 

By sponsoring a child in India for £20 a month, you can ensure a vulnerable child can live in safety with a family and enjoy the childhood they deserve.  If you'd like to find out more, take a look at child sponsorship in India.