Positive children in Gujarat fly high
By Gurinder Gulati
Gandhinagar, Gujarat, 5 August: The sky was literally the limit for some HIV positive children from Gujarat, who indulged in dare-devil acts even normal children would think twice about, like para sailing.
“It was really thrilling!” said Sanjay Patel, a 14 year positive boy from Surat, who participated in the para sailing event, “I felt like catching a pigeon in my hands when I was flying in the sky!” Similarly, Manisha, a 13 year girl from Baroda, who took part in the rifle shooting event remarked “I did it for the first time in my life and feel great that I too can do it!”.
Fifty HIV positive children, including 13 girls, from all over the state participated in a two-day adventure sports camp organized by the Gujarat State Network of People (GSNP), in collaboration with UNICEF and Gujarat State AIDS Control Society (GSACS).
They had the time of their lives as they took part in adventure sports like para sailing, rifle shooting, rock climbing, crossing the river by clinging on to a rope, and so on. Though, they enjoyed all the games, para sailing was a hit with most of the children as they could fly at a height of 300 ft which not only gave them a sense of adventure but confidence as well, that they also can do it!
In addition to sporting activities, the children were also exposed to lessons on life skills such as dealing with emergencies at home, adolescent health, importance of personal hygiene, etc. School kits donated by Reliance Industries were distributed to all the children who participated in the camp.
Asked about their future plans, all the children wanted to complete their studies and do something significant in their life. “Although I lost my parents to the disease, I have not lost hope to do something big in my life. I would like to be a scientist. That’s why I go to school regularly and am studying hard to fulfill my dream”, said Sanjay Patel.
Similarly, Anand, a 10 year old student of Class 3, expressed his desire of becoming a pilot. Ankit Soni, another HIV positive boy studying in Class 8 in Ahmedabad said, “My classmates know that I am HIV positive and they have no problems with me. I have learnt a lot of things in this camp which have helped in building my confidence”.
Daxaben Patel, President of the GSNP, Surat, whose idea it was to organize the two-day camp explained, “These children, in addition to being HIV positive, were either orphans or had one living parent. Although they were attending schools, they were leading a solitary life as there did not have any source of fun or entertainment. Their caretakers just didn’t have enough time to spare for them. Therefore, I submitted a proposal to UNICEF to support this two day camp, with a difference”.
Towards the end of the camp, Dr D.M. Saxena, Project Director, GSACS, treated all the children to a huge cake. He expressed his appreciation on the encouraging outcome of the camp and remarked, “We want to remove myths and misconceptions regarding HIV-positive children. Our aim is to provide a space where they can live a normal, happy life. These kids are no different from any other.”
UNICEF has ongoing programmes with the Government, NGOs and GSACS in creating awareness about prevention of HIV/AIDS among young people as well as strengthening the Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission (PPTCT) services in all the 25 district hospitals and medical colleges in the state.