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Dreams Come True for HIV+ Orphans
by Analiz Schremmer
Posted on Tuesday, February 13, 2018
When he was 10, a shy boy named Aarav* was surrendered to Gan Sabra, an orphanage for HIV+ children in India.

His life had not left him much hope. His parents divorced when he was young, so he was cared for by his HIV+ father, who died a few years later. His mother was involved in drug dealing and smuggling, so he and his brother ended up in the care of his grandfather.

The grandfather was quickly aging and it wasn’t long before he became paralyzed and bedridden. He felt he could still raise his younger grandson, but he wasn’t able to meet the needs of Aarav, who was often sick due to his HIV status.

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At Gan Sabra, Aarav became part of a community of children who struggled with the same diagnosis. He finally found a place where he wasn’t treated like an outcast for his status.

Lucy with notes from Shane and others

In India, there is a severe stigma against people with HIV. And, unlike in the United States, a person’s HIV status is not confidential.

Besides the confidentiality aspect, the stigma is so severe in India, that even hospitals are known to turn people away due to their HIV status.

“A year ago we had a sick child with HIV and the doctor was trying to get him to the hospital,” says President Mike Douris. “He was turned away by three different hospitals and he ended up dying. That just shows how difficult life can be for people with HIV.

“All of the children in Gan Sabra Children’s Home deal with the same challenges, the social stigma, the medical issues, and so the orphanage becomes a family and they support one another and accept each other, which helps build self esteem, which they are going to need when they grow up and have to live within society.”

Fo Aarav, Gan Sabra became a place to form new friendships, build relationships and grow as a person. His caregivers describe him as an honest child who was helpful around the house. He enjoyed playing sports with the other children in the home and began dreaming of a career in government administration.

 

A year ago, Aarav, now 17, and his friend, Sai*, were accepted to a prestigious boarding school.

“This is the first time that we are able to send children from Gan Sabra to a boarding school,” says Umashankar Shankardas, executive director in India. “If they complete school successfully, and receive support from a sponsor, they will be able to pursue a college education, and Aarav can make his dream of working in government administration a reality.”

Shankardas explains that having two HIV+ boys attend a boarding school in India is revolutionary. That is why their HIV status is maintained confidential. Only the school’s top administration is aware of their illness.

“Thanks to the support they get from their sponsors, these two kids are getting a quality education,” Shankardas says,” They are not only working to make their own dreams a reality, but are also setting an example for the other kids at Gan Sabra to follow.”

 

*Names have been changed.

 

 

 

 


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