India: The Freedom Foundation, a NGO, does pioneer work with HIV positive people in India. The National AIDS control Organization (NACO) has named it an exemplary organization. Under its roof a project called DIYA (The Positive Living Lamps) has started in Hyderabad that looks after HIV positive children. There children between the ages of 3 and 14 receive care and medical attention.
Games are played, competitions organized, the participants laugh and dance and afterwards prizes are awarded. The people are happy. The unusual thing about this summer camp is that all the children and many of the parents are HIV positive. In India AIDS is still a taboo and infected people are confronted with social stigmatization and rejection. The care free atmosphere on this summer day is not something they are used to.
Several of the children and teenagers come from DIYA. That these orphans live at DIYA is due to the fact that their relations didn’t want to take them, because of their HIV status. They are afraid of infection and of the blight on their family name. These children can come to DIYA and people can also bring in abandoned children. However, far more institutions are needed than the Freedom Foundation is able to run at the moment. About 70 000 children in India are HIV positive and need care.
Those who make it to DIYA find a place to stay, food and loving care. No one knows how long they will live, but at least they have a home at DIYA. The medical programme is able to reach more children than the number that are taken in. Further children and teenagers receive medical care, even if there is no place for them at DIYA.
Through legal channels a school was forced to accept the children from DIYA, so that they now have the possibility to finish school and then study. DIYA also has its own programme to support children who struggle to keep up with the tempo at school.
As simple and humble everything DIYA has to offer is, the commitment of the co-workers is great and so wonderful things can happen. A little girl who had never gone to school was able to start attending school through DIYA. There it became clear that she was very talented. Now she is about to gain her school leaving certificate, which will open the door to her dream of becoming a doctor.