In 1993 two children tested HIV positive among 50 children who underwent HIV testing in a Chennai city based orphanage. The orphanage management admitted both these children at the Institute of Child Health and Hospital for children, Egmore. The word that children were living with a dreaded disease soon spread and flocks of people used to come and see these two children. The panic that was raised because of the stigma drove the caregivers who were taking care of the children. The children also suffered from Hepatitis B. After a period of six months the children were discharged and had no place to go. It was then Dr.P.Manorama who working at ICH& HC decided to take them with her and she also initiated the NGO called CHES. Community Health and Education Society (CHES) became a pioneer when it took in these shunned children when no one else would and offered refuge and solace.
The Institution after initiation soon took efforts to curtail unnecessary admission by following the system of Gate Keeping criteria where HIV infected orphans were given priority. At the same time CHES took efforts to mainstream the children admitted in Anandha Illam. All available options such as reintegration in to extended family, unrelated foster care and adoption were tried. Since then we have had 70% of the children with families reintegrated back and regular family meets are being organized once in three months. Three girls babies were given on unrelated foster care and so far xxx children who tested HIV negative after the 18months have all been given on adoption. All admission in to Anandha Illam has now been routed through either the social welfare department as a special home and through child welfare committee. The institution has also been awarded a Fit Institution Status.
Here at the shelter home called Anandha Illam [meaning Happy home] mainly the infected and affected and vulnerable children are provided a safe space to live, medical care including health education and HAART, educational and psychosocial support and recreational activities. After 15years of struggle for an appropriate safe environment to live children have been gifted with a wonderful center a dream come true for the entire team. All our constraints met over years living at various rented places have been taken care in this new project. All HIV infected children have been linked to Government run ART centers and all children are being educated on simple self health care based on a manual Kutiyn Nalam
developed by CHES.
The greatest achievement is that children with HIV have started to live beyond childhood in our experience at Anandha Illam. The biggest challenge was to admit children in to regular schools. Until 1998 we struggled and since there was a lot of discrimination we started our own in house school. Thanks to the efforts of government of Tamilnadu Anandha Illam children are now in to regular schools from 5th onwards and until then they study at the in-house school. Children have started to complete school and are now entering college. As part of the recreational activities children visit interesting spots on excursion, go an annual tours, have started to learn music with an aim to form Anandha Illam music troupe and have started to learn the art of fencing and are bring laurels back home. Psychosocial support is provided to those who need it through trained counselors and psychologist. Effective monitoring of food supplied, education provided and children status have been inbuilt in to the program.