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India: Seven and HIV+

September 23, 2010 - India

by Caitlin McQuilling and Jaimie Shaff

Manoj and his friend Sunil (names changed) strolled into the ART office today and quietly sat down, neither of their feet touching the ground as their skinny legs and knobby knees dangled over the chairs. At 7 years old Manoj is one of our youngest HIV+ patients, but also one of the most responsible.  Manoj and Sunil walked 15 km to get to our office today so that Sunil could pick up his ART medication from us for the month.  In his high little voice he told me how important it is to take his ART medication every day and says he follows all of our instructions strictly.

Manoj was extremely sick when he was brought to Jeevan Jyoti Hospital over a year and a half ago.  Malnourished with a vicious fungal infection across his face, he was never able to attend school because he was always out sick.  Both of Manoj’s parents died when he was young so his older sister has been raising him.  She couldn’t afford to care for him anymore and had no idea what to do.

We put Manoj right on ART and now a year and a half later he’s a healthy, little boy with bright eyes and a mischievous grin.  Manoj (and our counselor who visits him regularly) says that his sister takes very good care of him and monitors his medication and nutrition daily.  With RMF and Jeevan Jyoti’s help she’s set up a small convenience shop near their home where she makes enough money to take care of their modest household expenses.

Life for Manoj, however, will never be easy.  As we chatted over a bar of chocolate (okay, I know it’s not nutritious, but who can resist giving an adorable HIV+ little boy a bar of chocolate, even someone working in nutrition), I asked Manoj why he wasn’t at school.  He told us that when he went to school the teacher beat him for not knowing answers and being behind other children.  The other kids in the class made fun of him, not because of his HIV+ status (no one knows), but because Manoj is a 7 year old in a class with 5 year olds.  Manoj was so sick the past few years before he was diagnosed as HIV+, he is two years behind in school.  Since there are no remedial classes for slow students in the schools in rural India, today we agreed to find Manoj a tutor who can give him one to one tuitions so that we can bring him up to speed with the other kids and hopefully get him back in school by next semester.

Manoj is one of 18 HIV+ children that RMF India is supporting for treatment, care and psycho-social support.  For more information on how you can help Manoj and children like him visit our website,

For more information about RMF’s HIV/AIDS treatment, education and outreach programs in India, click here.

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