Budhwar Peth in the heart of Pune city houses India’s third largest red-light district which supposedly has at least 700 brothels. During a time when there was hardly any awareness of the HIV virus or free treatment available, a journey called Manavya began in Bhugaon, the outskirts of Pune. On #WorldAIDSDay2019 we want to bring to light the ground breaking work of this NGO, probably the first in India to open a home for born orphan HIV positive children.

The Stigma is Very Real

The fear, stigma and negative attitude towards HIV AIDS is very real. Our visit to Manavya yielded in understanding some very sad truths about the discrimination these children face. Not just in schools but starting from their very own relatives the HIV afflicted children are shunned. This impacts the children’s self esteem in a very harsh way.

How It All Began

The NGO has many initiatives to give sustained support to the boys and girls living here. Late Vijayatai Lawate was a Karma Yogini and her dream was to provide shelter to HIV affected women and children. In conversation with Dr. Vidya Patil and Mr. Shirish Lawate we learnt how they worked together to make this dream come true. With 46 children at present, the staff of Manavya ensure they have not just medical attention but also education and counselling. The kids are trained for economic independence under the scheme of ‘earn and learn‘. This prepares them before they enter mainstream society.

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Meet the wonderful staff of Manavya. Ms. Jamila Dhalait was kind enough to show us around.

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All children deserve to have a bright future and realising their dream is a right that’s theirs

The Real Goal

We learnt from Mr. Shirish, the President of Manavya that with medicines available free of cost and a nutritious diet, the children are able to lead quite a healthy life. The challenge now is to make aware the other parts of society so that they are accepted wholly without discrimination. Moving out of a place they call home once they grow up, these children strive hard to live a normal life even when they find employment. While there are continued efforts to curb sex trafficking, maybe we could also create a welcoming atmosphere for the afflicted children who also want a chance to grow just like everyone else. This #WorldAIDSDay2019 is the perfect day to open our hearts and minds and treat them equally.

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Dolls and diyas made by the children of Manavya.

Every bud has the right to bloom, there is always a light waiting to brighten the way. We can be that light by breaking the stigma and being humane. Can we take that pledge on #WorldAIDSDay2019? Perhaps this could be a new philosophy we create.