Nadya started her studying 5 months later than other children of her age. But she was waiting for that impatiently; there were so much worries and questions… There was not a happier schoolgirl in the country. However, this single child’s happiness demonstrates the core of the problem: the whole generation of children, whose access to the education is shut down due to their HIV positive status, grows in Ukraine.
Moreover, the access to normal growth and development is prohibited at all for the most of them. The administrations of schools and kindergartens refuse to accept them. Children, growing in families, have a chance to study with children of the same age if only they hide their HIV status. And it represents a serious danger, and not for healthy children (contacts with HIV positive people are safe) – but for HIV positive themselves. Very often they have to keep special life regimen – from nutrition to strict schedule of medicine intake.
The situation with HIV positive orphan children is more complicated. There are 2 groups of children (23 in total) with confirmed HIV positive status in Kiev’s “Beryozka” orphanage (for children of 0 – 4 years old). Nadya, who is almost seven, lives in one of these groups. There is one more child, Vadim, aged five. The other children are little ones, under three. Certainly, this fact creates noticeable problems in socializing of elder children.
Chances to go to school at the age of six for HIV positive orphan kids are insignificantly small. Newborn babies, who were abandoned by their HIV positive parents, get to orphanages, where they live till the age of four. The orphanages for little ones (from 0 to 4) are within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health. Children, aged five have to be moved up into the orphanages (from 5 to 16) or specialized boarding schools, which are within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education. But HIV positive children have status of children-invalids. Therefore, it is hardly possible to move up orphan children with HIV infection into the institutions, which are within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education, where they can study and develop normally. The problem is not only in the inadequate social environment but in the normative documents of the Ministry of Education. According to the existing norms, the teachers in specialized children’s institutions work till 2 p.m. only. After this time nobody cares about kids’ mental development. Only a nurse and a doctor look after them.
Nadya’s first teacher, Zoya Vladimirovna, says: “Everything is much worse, than I expected. Nadya knows neither letters nor figures. She can not pronounce correctly a lot of words. Nadya can count only up to 5, and knows no verse, but is already familiar with curse words… I can hold her attention only for 15 – 20 minutes. Comparing Nadya with the children of the same age who live in families, I determine her maturity level as for four years old. Nevertheless, Nadya wants to go to the “real” school very much and wants a teacher to come to her. She loves when somebody reads books to her and is very surprised by this fact. She likes to draw with a chalk on the blackboard. I hope to find the way to Nadya and teach her the necessary minimum. Nadya is a naughty but very touching and redeemable child”.
The best opportunity to grow and develop for HIV positive orphan children is a foster family. But, unfortunately, HIV positive child have almost no chance to be adopted. Healthy foster parents are afraid of a death phantom, which wanders above such children. And the legislators protect them from adoption by the HIV positive parents, who want to give all their love and care. According to Family Legislation of Ukraine, HIV positive people can not adopt, be guardian or take a child to a foster home. Moreover, by the legislation, HIV positive children are children-invalids. In addition to other demands, to adopt a child-invalid the prospective parent must have a separate room for a child, but not every even healthy family can provide such living conditions.
Nadya will grow up soon. And while she is learning how to read and write, we have to do our homework: how to give her and thousands of other HIV-positive children the opportunity to live among us, not to survive next to us.
For detailed information, please, contact Pavel Piminov, Communications Director, Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation on e-mail: P.Piminov@antiaids.org. Contact phone number: +38 (044) 490 4805.