Baby Lakshmi hails from a small village in Hyderabad where she used to live in a little hut with her elder brother and sister. The children lost their parents to AIDS and as fate would have it, baby Lakshmi was also infected with HIV at birth.
Though her siblings have not been infected by this deadly disease, they are helpless and not in a position to provide care and support to their little sister due to poverty and the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
When Lakshmi’s sister got married, she was left with her elder brother. Soon, Lakshmi’s brother started planning to settle down but was afraid of not getting a match for himself and finding acceptability within the community, if his HIV infected sister lived in the same house. As a result, Lakshmi was left with their paternal grandmother, who is her only guardian in the world.
But the change in surroundings at her grandmother’s house did little to improve Lakshmi’s condition. If anything, it got worse. Still not mature enough, she was left to fend for herself. Moreover, she was shunned and cursed by people living around her. To make matters worse, her own grandmother, who was her only support, took to abusing and torturing the little baby.’ With the only person she counted on not standing beside her, she was staring at a bleak future – helpless, unsure and scared.
Things started looking up for Lakshmi when she came in contact with DESIRE Society, an NGO that distributes supplementary nutrition kits, validated and supported by Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) India, in association with its corporate partner, Pepsico. When members of DESIRE learnt of Lakshmi’s miserable and unhealthy living conditions, they offered her admission at an institutional care home run by them in Hyderabad.
When Lakshmi was admitted to the care home on 19 June 2013, she was malnourished, her CD4 count (number of cells in a cubic millimeter of blood) was only 200 cells/micro L when it should be at least 500. It was clear that she required urgent medical attention.
The little child received medicines for Opportunistic Infections (OIs) from a medical team, proper treatment and counselling on an urgent basis. Lakshmi was put on Antiretroviral Treatment (ART), a life-saving drug to increase her CD4 count levels. Now she receives round the clock health care, is regularly monitored and is required to maintain a balanced diet. These measures have helped her enormously as her health condition has shown a marked improvement. Apart from bodily improvement, Lakshmi now has the freedom to share her feelings, emotions and joy with 65 more such inmates in the institutional care home. For now, her life is free of discrimination, in place of which, she has friends and a loving home.
*CAF India supports Desire Society, aided by our corporate partner PepsiCo.