Giving New Life to Children with HIV/AIDS
HIV/AIDS is a rapidly growing problem in Nepal, fueled by ignorance about HIV prevention and brutal discrimination against people with AIDS. Many children with HIV are forced to leave their schools, and infected women are often abandoned by their husbands. Because of this stigma, many people avoid being tested and hide their symptoms of AIDS for as long as possible. According to a U.N. study, more than 80% of Nepalis with HIV have not been diagnosed.
The New Life Center provides excellent lifesaving treatment to children with HIV/AIDS while teaching their caretakers, most of whom also have HIV, to live hygienically and cook nutritious meals. This training dramatically reduces the risk of acquiring the illnesses that make HIV develop into AIDS, and lets infected people lead fulfilling lives. During the months that children and their guardians spend at the Center, they receive food, housing, and all medical treatment for free.
The New Life Center is the only facility in Nepal that uses a holistic approach to helping HIV-positive children. Its nurses, nutritionist, doctor, and other staff provide:
• For kids: education and enriching activities
• For caretakers: training in nutrition, health, literacy, and income generation
• For both: nutritious meals, 24-hour medical care, and counseling to improve their self-confidence and help them manage the stigma of HIV/AIDS
The training enables the parents to avoid many of the diseases that are particularly dangerous to HIV-positive people and to eat a balanced diet using inexpensive, locally available foods to keep themselves and their children as healthy as possible. Furthermore, professional psychological counselors help the children and their guardians learn to live with the stigma of HIV/AIDS and improve their self-esteem. The children also participate in enrichment activities such as celebrating Nepali festivals and taking trips to the zoo.
This comprehensive care model is a key to the Center’s success. Most children arrive with full-blown AIDS, including illnesses such as tuberculosis, malnutrition, and hepatitis, and return home with only HIV, ready to go to school and enjoy a happy childhood. If kids with HIV live hygienically, eat a nutritious diet, and try to avoid infections, they can typically expect to lead full and meaningful lives for around 25 years. By that time, it’s likely that additional treatments will be available to extend their lives even further. Most of the children don’t even need to take anti-retroviral drugs, which are difficult for people in rural and remote areas to obtain.
The New Life Center’s staff strives to find innovative ways to improve the livelihoods of their patients. For example, they planted a small vegetable garden and formed a partnership with Heifer International which contributed a few cows. These provide nutritious organic vegetables and fresh milk to the mothers and children at the Center.
With your help, the New Life Center will continue to let children with HIV lead fulfilling lives, and can expand to include:
• Community outreach about HIV awareness and prevention
• Follow-up visits to monitor the health of kids who have been discharged
• The construction of additional Centers in areas with high rates of child HIV/AIDS
“After coming to the New Life Center, my son and I both got healthier and gained weight,” Gita said. “I learned about a balanced diet, health, and hygiene. I gained self-confidence, and I learned how to deal with discrimination about HIV/AIDS and stand up for my rights.” After two months at the Center, Gita and her child were healthy and ready to resume their lives. The Center connected her with an organization that is sponsoring her son’s education at a school with special facilities for children with HIV/AIDS. Gita is now employed as a social motivator, training HIV-positive women. “At the New Life Center, I became empowered. Now I feel confident enough to do anything.”