Typically half of all people with HIV become infected before they are aged 25, developing AIDS and dying by time they are aged 35, leaving behind a generation to be raised by their grand parents, other adult relatives or left on their own - in a child headed household. Half of the population of Mumbai city lives in slums and chawl where HIV prevalence rate is high. ACI is working in the northern suburb of the city where there are big patches of slums are located and mostly the patients are coming from these location .The fact is HIV/AIDS brings poverty to the middle class person and he is dragged in to unremitting dearth.
- Vulnerability of children
In the absence of capable adult caretakers, children themselves take on responsibilities for the survival of the family and home. . In economically disadvantaged communities, a child's contribution is often necessary for the survival of the household. But in many HIV/AIDS affected households children have not simply increased the amount of work that they do but have also assumed decision-making and responsibilities that transform roles within families and households. Children assume adult roles as heads of household because there are no alternatives. They care for parents and younger siblings who are sick and dying from HIV/AIDS. They take charge of the care and running of the home for themselves and their siblings. They work long hours doing household tasks, supervising younger children and engaging in income-generating work in order to support the family. Many quit school and put at risk their own health and developmental needs to take on roles as parent, nurse and provider.
The vulnerability of the children starts before the death of their parents. Children living with parents who have HIV/AIDS will often experience many negative changes in their lives and suffer neglect, including emotional neglect, long before the death of the parent. Emotional suffering of the children usually begins with their parents’ diagnosis and increases along with the progression of their illness. Eventually the children see the slow and painful death of their parents and are emotionally shattered. With the loss of the earning member, hope, security and joy also die.
They have to adjust to a new situation with little or no support. Where once there was security and love, exploitation and abuse now rule their lives. And the girl child is the worst affected - generally they have to leave school and help the family in household work.
We should remember that the process of losing parents to HIV/AIDS includes the pain, the shame, the stigma and the fear that the disease carries in our society.
- Failing to Meet the Goals of Childhood
In many families and communities the environment for healthy growth and well-being has been devastated by HIV/AIDS. Instead of receiving special care and assistance, childhood is spent providing care and assistance. Children become decision-makers, responsible for the social and economic future of the family, and fill these roles without the physical and emotional protection, guidance and support that, as children, they deserve. They may act like adults, but it cannot be forgotten that these "heads of households" are children, but children whose childhood has been impoverished by HIV/AIDS. In such households, all children are affected. The care that older siblings can provide for younger children is likely to be inadequate because of the increased poverty of the household and the lack of maturity and experience of the caretaker, leading to poor health, hygiene and nutrition; absence from school, and developmental delays. The loss of material, emotional and developmental support from an adult exposes children to the distress which results from lack of affection, insecurity, fear, loneliness, grief or despair. It limits the possibility of a successful childhood which, in turn, affects the future as adults.
- The Value of a Child
The experience of older children who have lost their homes or families to HIV/AIDS related illness and death is insufficiently documented. However, in a world where millions of children are neglected, exploited and abused everyday it is reasonable to assume that these children can become easy prey to adults who are unconcerned with the child's best interest. Some adults might take children into their households to serve an ulterior purpose. Children are easy to intimidate and control. Children can provide extra income or free labor and can be treated like property or servants, kept from school and given inferior food and care. Millions of children suffer neglect and physical and sexual abuse. In the absence of alternatives, more and younger girls marry early.
- The economic impact
The death of the earning member, seriously affects the life of children. Each and every thing they are used to is now denied to them. Shelter, food, clothes, medicine, love, security, hope, future and education – all die with the parent. With no one to care for them, they quickly fall prey to anti-social elements, and are soon lost to society.
Sustainable development, simply stated as the continued ability to develop and provide for one's needs, is a concept that can be applied to individuals or societies. The process towards the sustainable development of a human being, childhood, takes place at the center of many interdependent layers of social structures. The first tier is most often the basic social unit of the family. Outside the boundaries of the family the child is enveloped in broader social components of the community - extended family, peer groups, school, social and religious organizations, work places, etc. The development of children is determined by the willingness and ability of family and community members to contribute to their successful survival and growth. In the most concrete ways this includes the provision of food, shelter, clothing, health care, schools and recreational opportunities. It also includes emotional needs such as love, security, guidance, and encouragement. . The provision of a full and productive childhood for the potential future contributors of any society is necessary for the continuation of that society's sustainable development.
- Keeping children in school
Keeping children in school is crucial for their future. Education is the only safety net in the child’s life. Schooling can also help to break the cycle of poverty. But orphans may be the first to be denied education when extended families cannot afford to educate all the children of Household. Poverty is cradle for nurturing HIV/AIDS and HIV brings chronic poverty to infected population .Education is the only tool to prevent the chronic poverty. Education co related directly to better knowledge, safer behavior and reduces HIV infection rates. Survey done by WHO shows that better educated people have lower rates of infection, especially among the young people. Girl who are enrolled in school are much less likely to be sexually active and better educated girls tend to delay having sex and are more likely to require their partner to use condoms.
In this context, it may legitimately be asked why education should be singled out among the range of human rights issues facing AIDS-affected children. Yet education is not only a basic human right; it is also essential to the enjoyment of a range of other human rights. Keeping children in school can help to safeguard them from abuses such as hazardous labor, sexual exploitation and discrimination in the workforce. Education increases children’s survival and development prospects, contributing to increased employment opportunities, improved family health and nutrition, lower maternal and child mortality, and lower rates of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. In the context of HIV/AIDS, schools may be the one place where children can obtain accurate information about HIV prevention, as well as life skills that empower them to resist unwanted sex and early marriage. Education can be considered a “social vaccine” against HIV/AIDS: evidence suggests that HIV prevalence is lower among those with higher levels of education.
It is part of the cruel logic of the AIDS epidemic that when parents become sick or die, it reduces their children’s access to education, which in turn makes them more vulnerable to HIV.
- Education Empower Girls
A study by the international center for research on women found that the lower the women’s status, the higher their rate of HIV infection. Ultimately, better educated girls are likely to delay marriage and childbearing, have fewer children and healthier babies, enjoy better earning potential and avoid commercial sex.
These children should be empowered by making them active members of our community rather than condemning them as victims of their parent’s sins. Many children already function as heads of households and as caregivers’. They are a vital part of the solution and are carrying out efforts to lessen the impact of HIV/AIDS in their families and communities. They deserve a better future. And only collectively we can ensure it.