Some of the afflicted children are totally unaware of their deadly ailment. There was a Q&A session where students asked about how a dead person is buried, about how a person with AIDS is operated, and the society’s outlook to such patients.
Rev Sr Infanta informed that the home, the first for terminally-ill AIDS patients in Maharashtra, started way back in 1999. The sisters who run the home spend day and night with the AIDS patients, listening to their grief, counselling them and awakening them to a positive frame of mind. Sometimes, fights in the middle of the night have to be taken care of; sometimes suicidal tendencies have to be averted. No easy job, rather, one which demands a lot of sacrifice, courage and discipline. Those whose condition improves are sent to the rejuvenation home at Taloja. Some of the afflicted children are totally unaware of their deadly ailment. There was a question and answer session where members of ‘Agni K East Jaag’ put up varied questions relating to the sickness, about the home, about how a dead person is buried, about how a person with AIDS is operated, the society’s outlook to such patients. There was a question/suggestion from one of the students regarding having HIV medical certificate before a marriage is arranged.
Rev Sr Infanta informed the gathering that lot of money comes to India
for HIV/AIDS but not a single penny comes to the home. Dr Divya rightly put it: “It is the duty of those in the medical profession to counsel an HIV patient of the treatment required, the cost that has to be incurred for ART (Anti-Retroviral Therapy) and the need to take one’s family into confidence. Moreover, casual attitude must never be exercised in the matter of use of gloves by doctors and nurses, proper sterilisation of needles, necessary hygiene and care should be maintained.” She was also very articulate in asserting the need to do something for HIV patients in need of operations, a task which nearly all hospitals refused to do, in spite of the judicial verdict that necessary operations must be performed for AIDS patients.
Dr Divya was overjoyed to see such a big group consisting of youngsters and she informed that this would go a long way to educate the society. The Jyothi Home gives free medicines to the patients. It is the love, the care and the prayers that are fed to these patients, whose days are numbered. Some of them come from very good families and are paying the price of a single mistake. Some are helpless victims who curse the men who inflicted them with the disease. Some have been turned out from their homes after their husband passed away within days of marriage. The capacity of the Home at Kalamboli is currently 30 women and ten men and at Taloja it is 40 women only. Dr Divya hopes the medical profession will realise the importance of essential counselling and assistance. Quacks proclaiming complete cure in their advertisements in local trains, etc has added to the problem and she very strictly prohibits innumerable patients who ask if they can go to these practitioners.
James John informed the gathering that “we at ‘Agni K East Jaag’ have a three-fold approach towards such visits which are as follows:
Educating the masses especially through Late Rajiv Gandhi’s call of ‘each one teach one’ so that the patients are treated as one among us and eradicating the stigma of untouchablity associated with the disease.
Such homes/centers need money to run the centre; money to build such structures; money to pay for electricity, water, food, clothing, medicines, toiletries etc.
Providing contacts for such patients who are turned away from hospitals so that they can be placed at such homes. All the members had lunch at the home which was followed by the ghazal programme by Prakash and his entourage, who touched the hearts of the inmates with their soulful music. This programme had requests from the inmates for their choice of music and he touched the hearts of each and everyone present. The next programme was a skit by the Dahanukar students, titled, ‘Where is Love? Here is Love’. This was followed by a song-dance sequel with everyone joining in. Simple carefree moments sung from the heart conveyed the depth of care that humanity can portray; the pangs of anguish that can be stilled with love. As Anita David of ML Dahanukar strummed on her guitar, Nisha, Fatema, Shweta, Jayesh, Pooja, accompanying Dahanukar faculty Prof Sudha and the rest joined in. Shweta, FYBMS student, spoke up for everybody, by committing themselves to collect contributions from every student and send it to the centre, which is totally dependent on such assistance.
The friendship bands tied by the students to the inmates at the home seemed to hold a lot of promise for them. This was reflected in innocent eyes that lit up with joy by simple lovable deeds. Principal Dr Madhavi Pethe of ML Dahanukar College and the NSS unit in-charge Pagaar Narayan, were all praise for the students. As Dr Pethe succinctly summed it up, “Great work”. Indeed, the oath the students took along with all the members at the start of the journey spoke volumes. In unison the chorus rose, “We pledge to commit our lives in whatever way we can, to work for the cause of the needy and the underprivileged.”
Agni K East Jaag had evolved a formula for success by first spreading the message through the personal contacts and having such a big group visit the Home and by having lunch and tea along with the inmates. The group donated bags of clothes, rice, wheat, biscuits, etc and an amount of Rs 40,000 was also collected and donated to the home. James John had a message to all the members that each one of us can replicate the idea by passing the message that persons with this disease are not at all untouchable and we should take care and love them.