A Case for Faith

The aptly named Faith was founded in 2005 by Smriti Singh, in the capital of Rajasthan, the pink city of Jaipur, with the ultimate objective of assuring equality for children living with HIV and ensuring the provision of education, food, shelter, security, growth and development through Faith’s intervention with quality care.

From a humble beginning with two children and one caretaker to a beacon of hope for over 50 children, Faith has provided a warm, loving, supportive and stimulating environment to HIV/AIDS infected (or affected) youth. By promoting a healthy physical, intellectual and emotional development for the youngsters and reducing the stigma of the virus via increased awareness, Faith has made its mission an achievable goal, albeit an extremely difficult one, due to the scale of the problem being tackled rather than any issues with the methodology.

The model of care is built on the four pillars of Survival, Protection, Development and Participation (with a strong emphasis on health and nutrition). This framework aims to address the major challenges for the HIV/AIDS infected children living in extreme adversity such as inaccurate diagnosing techniques, poor nutrition during childhood affecting the child’s development and growth and making it more susceptible to opportunistic infections, which in some cases may be very severe due to the weakened immune system.

Another barrier is also the fact that children avoid complaining about health problems due to an innate fear of all things healthcare-related such as hospitals and doctors. Unfortunately, when this factor is combined with the dependence of administration of the Antiretroviral Treatment on the caretaker, the results can be difficult to comprehend, as best exemplified by an example of a child who was taken home by their grandfather for a holiday and immediately saw his Antiretroviral Treatment suspended in detriment of mystical treatments. Child abuse, sexual harassment, and other mistreatments of a similar nature by elders in the absence of parents may lead to socially unacceptable acts which can challenge the mental well-being of the child.

Although the scenario doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, there have been significant strides in the combat and prevention of the virus — a government’s ‘EID’ scheme is targeting HIV-positive, pregnant women to ensure they can do everything they can to minimise chances of transmission (no breastfeeding, careful procedures during birth etc) with babies also being given prophylaxis 45 days after birth to minimise the opportunity for the virus to multiply. In this scheme out of 400 babies from HIV+ mothers, only 2 tested positive after 6 months and 398 tested negative.

When coupled with the Antiretroviral treatment for the infected children and a philosophy focused on Education, Social Development and Physical Therapy, Faith has become a case study for best practices in the field. Tutors are available to help the children pursue their academic endeavours, regular trips and outings are organised to ensure they engage with the outside world in a way that furthers their emotional and social growth, and daily yoga sessions play a crucial role in helping them build their strength and muscle after illness periods brought on by the virus. By addressing all the facets presented by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in children, Faith leads the way in combating this catastrophe.

This piece was originally published on Volunteer Invest’s blog as part of a series of articles to raise awareness of the plight of HIV/AIDS infected children.

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