At a tender age of 15, Gauri Jadhav (name changed) has a tough task of hiding the fact that she is HIV positive at school and at the same time, handle effects of this deadly infection with a smile on her face.
A Bandra resident, Gauri’s parents are HIV positive and she was born with the infection. Since birth, she has been on anti-retroviral treatment (ART).
When Gauri turned five, her parents told her about the infection.
“I was told not to tell anyone about it in school because of the stigma attached to it,” said Gauri.
While speaking to My Medical Mantra at Mumbai District AIDS Control Society’s (MDACS) office in Wadala, Gauri said her first bitter experience about being a HIV patient happened when she was 10.
“I was playing with other children in my neighbourhood when one of their parents abused me and asked me to leave as I was HIV positive. This one incident will haunt me forever,” said Gauri.
Despite facing health problems, Gauri has not missed out on a single day at school and will be appearing for class X exams in March 2017.
Gauri is eldest of three siblings. Unlike Gauri, her younger brothers are not HIV infected. Her mother is a domestic help and also undertakes stitching and embroidery work. Her father is unemployed because of HIV-related complications.
“I ensure that we take medicines and eat food on time. There are times when I feel weak; especially during night when I get headaches, but monthly check-ups and medicines have helped me,” said Gauri.
Gauri says she wants to be a school teacher and spread awareness among people regarding HIV/AIDS.
Officers at MDACS say Gauri is an inspiration for many HIV positive children.
“Most children drop out of school after class 10, but Gauri is a strong-headed girl. We try our best to support these children with the help of NGOs. Counselling plays a key role as at tender age they have to face bitter truth and live with it,” said Dr Shrikala Acharya, additional project director, MDACS.
According to UNICEF India, there are 2,20,000 children infected with HIV/AIDS. It is approximated that every year 55,000 to 60,000 children are born to mothers who are HIV positive, of which 30% are likely to be infected themselves.