Times of India
23 August 2010
By R Vasundara
Sekhar wakes up each morning in his tiny dwelling at Camp Road and after a quick cup of tea, dashes off to play football with his friends in the crisp morning air. Jostling, kicking, passing and rolling in the mud, the boys return to their homes as the sun grows hot, their bodies streaked with sweat and dust. A quick bath and after gulping down some buttermilk and rice, Sekhar heads for work at a loading point for goods in the neighbourhood where he manages the accounts.
He leads as normal a life as any 17–year–old boy in his neighbourhood but for the fact that Sekhar is HIV positive. "Both my parents were HIV positive," he said. "They died. Today, my aunt looks after my younger sister, who is also infected, and me." Standing five feet tall with a skinny body and bright eyes peering out of a dark, gaunt face, Sekhar does not look too different from the other malnourished children in his neighbourhood. In fact, according to him, very few people are aware of his ailment. "Outside my immediate family, one of my uncles who funded my education knows about it," he said. "Otherwise, neither my friends at school nor the ones here in this neighbourhood are aware of it."
Healthy though he seems now, until the government introduced free antiretroviral therapy(ART) in 2004, Sekhar’s health was not too good. Plagued by various ailments due to lack of immunity brought on by the virus, Sekhar hovered on the brink of death. "I had severe and recurrent bouts of diarrhoea and high fever for a long time," he added. "I also contracted herpes. My aunt was apparently told that I may not survive." ART changed it all for him. With better health, Sekhar is now able to play and take part in most activities that other kids enjoy. "I love football," he said, eyes gleaming. "Ronaldo’s my favourite!."
Sekhar is also able to dream of other goals. "I want to do engineering in IIT and then get a big job and earn good money. I failed my tenth standard two years ago, but I’ve been trying for the past two years. The social workers promised me a scholarship for engineering if I could clear my tenth standard."
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