Two Indian teenagers living with HIV defy odds

Photograph caption: From left to right, Manik Prabhu, Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, Elvis Joseph, Coach  and Babu Seenappa in Geneva, Switzerland on 30 June 2015.

Two exceptional teenagers from Karnataka, India have participated in the 2015 International Children’s Games in Alkmaar, Netherlands. Babu Seenappa and Manik Prabhu were born with HIV. They overcame difficult childhoods to rise to the pinnacle of children’s athletics and participate in the prestigious Games accredited by the International Olympic Committee.

 The two boys joined more than 1500 athletes between the ages of 12 and 15 from about 80 cities worldwide. They competed in the track and field events with Babu running in the 1500 metre race and Manik participating in the 100 metre event and the relay race.

Following the Games the two boys met with Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of UNAIDS in Geneva, Switzerland. Mr Sidibé congratulated the pair for their determination to succeed and rise above difficult circumstances.

“Babu and Manik are talented, dedicated and determined teenagers who have not let HIV stand in the way of achieving their dreams,” said Mr Sidibé. “They are part of a new generation of hope and are an inspiration to us all.”

The interaction took place on 30 June, the first day of the 36th meeting of UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board (PCB). Mr Sidibé introduced the boys to the PCB, recognizing their contributions to addressing HIV stigma and discrimination.

PCB_36_Day1-3986Babu and Manik live in the Sneha Care, a residential facility for children living with HIV, which is run by the non-profit, Camillians and located in Bangalore, India. Manik’s mother needed support for caring for him after his father died and so she placed him in the home when he was seven years old. Babu has lost both his parents.

“After my parent’s death, coping with dejection and ill-treatment from other family members who harboured misunderstanding and myths about HIV and its transmission was one of the biggest challenges for me,” said Babu. While he faced early challenges, Babu is no longer frightened by HIV. He said, “It’s just three alphabets. At least that’s the joke amongst us back in school. I’m not scared of HIV. Why should I be scared? “

Manik believes that he can help other young people living with HIV. He said, “When I disclose my HIV status, I am able to encourage all children who are positive like me and be their role model.”

Both boys are accessing antiretroviral medicine, which is keeping them healthy. Back in Bangalore, they have a busy schedule which starts with morning yoga, then classes at the National Institute of Open School and afternoons spent training for athletic competitions.

In India, more than 45 500 children (0-14 years old) were receiving HIV treatment in 2014. UNAIDS believes it is critical that all children access ARVs so that they can have healthy lives, succeed in school and grow up to be productive adults.

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