INDIA: Don Bosco Care Home Provides Education, Programs for 63 Boys with HIV/AIDS
(MissionNewswire) The Don Bosco Care Home, located in the Southern Indian village of Nilavarapatti, cares for 63 boys diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. The program began in 2011 as a pilot program and since has successfully grown into a model program for the entire country. Most programs in India only serve children with HIV/AIDS up to age nine. Responding to the need to care for older children, Don Bosco Care Home works with youth who are 10 and older.
Don Bosco Care Home was started as an extension of Don Bosco Anbu Illam, which provides shelter, counseling, education and support services to poor youth in the region. Having been established in the local community for many years, Salesian missionaries in Salem were able to assess the critical needs of poor youth and create specialized programs to meet those needs.
Many of the youth in the program were living on the streets having been rejected by their families once their disease was diagnosed. Because they have been abandoned by those who are supposed to care for them and are living with HIV/AIDS, almost all of the youth feel stigmatized and shameful. At the home, boys receive counseling, recreation opportunities, medical observation and critical antiretroviral therapy treatments (ART). Some of the boys live at the home and access services and educational programs while others—including those who attend the local polytechnic college—have access to the program’s ART treatments and then return to their own homes.
“Salesian missionaries are excited about the success of this program and are eager to engage in the continued care of these youth,” says Salesian Father Daniel Sebastian, director of Don Bosco Care Home. “We’ve learned through this program that our strength in youth development, psychosocial counseling and coalition building between local communities, the private sector and state-run agencies translates well into improving the lives of those affected by HIV/AIDS.”
Reaching people with HIV/AIDS is half the battle in India. There is such a stigma surrounding HIV that most people do not wish to discuss it and are hesitant to seek out information, counseling and testing. Don Bosco Care Home also promotes public awareness campaigns in the community to help educate and sensitize people about HIV/AIDS and issues surrounding the diagnosis.
The program has been particularly effective because the youth are able to study and build peer relationships in a safe and supportive environment free from the stigma and rejection they previously encountered. In 2013, Bosco Care Home was granted an award by the district of Salem for the best service in the field of HIV/AIDS.
“This program has a unique impact on the community by influencing attitudes and cultural stereotypes away from the maltreatment of individuals affected and toward a more informed and supportive stance. When it comes to children’s care, this couldn’t be any more important,” adds Fr. Sebastian.
The first case of HIV/AIDS was reported in India in Tamil Nadu in 1986, and today there are 5.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS in country, according to UNICEF. Close to 38 percent of those infected with HIV are women, and 55,000 to 60,000 children are born every year to mothers who are HIV positive. UNICEF notes that without treatment, these newborns are at a 30 percent risk of becoming infected during the mother’s pregnancy, labor or through breastfeeding after six months. It is estimated that India has more than 220,000 children infected with HIV/AIDS.
Entrenched gender inequalities, chronic and debilitating poverty and stubborn persistence of HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination significantly contribute to the continuing spread of the infection and hinder those who test positive from seeking treatment. Even young children with HIV/AIDS have been rejected by their families and local communities.
The Don Bosco Care Home is located in the village of Nilavarapatti in the district of Salem in the state of Tamil Nadu in Southern India.
UNICEF – India HIV/AIDS