Rahul Londhe is 14. He lives with his “dadi’’ (grandmother). He lost his mother 2 years ago. His father had died almost 5 years back. Rahul had been falling ill regularly. His grandmother used to take him to small, fly-by-night doctors in the hope that he would get better but he never seemed to recover fully. This way, she had spent a lot of money on the young boy. The family had never considered the possibility that the boy could be infected with a life long disease. On the other hand, Rahul has a sister who did not have the same health problems as him.
The family lives in small cramped room in the vegetable market in Yerwada, Pune not far from the KCA sponsored Yerwada OPD clinic. An ex-client told the Yerwada outreach team about the boy and the team then paid a home visit and fluently established a relationship with the boy as well as with the rest of the family.

The team, usually 2 staff, asked the child about the deaths of the parents and found that it could have been due to a blood borne disease. The team also noticed that the family were terribly poor; poorer than anyone they had seen recently. The grandmother earned a pittance washing dishes that she spent entirely on food for that hour. Often, she was shooed away as being too old to do a good job. They collected wooden slats of broken fruit crates from the market and cooked their meagre meals of lentils and rice in the open air. At times, there used to be more water and a few lentils floating about in the blackened pot.

The team invited the family to the clinic and counselled them about the nature and the complexities around the disease in simple terms that they would understand…a skill that the team has developed over the years and which is crucial when dealing with the barely literate.

The team then sought consent and proceeded to test both the siblings. Rahul tested positive as suspected by the team and his sister tested negative. Rahul was then introduced into a care plan. First up was to evaluate him for drugs. Rahul’s CD4(a person’s immune status), it turned out, was a low 105 (with 500 being decent) and the team then asked the boy if he wanted to start treatment, telling him that he would have to take it lifelong. Rahul promptly agreed. He said simply, “I want to live.”

Still, despite doing all of this, it is not enough. Poverty is a monster! Consider the scene – the grandmother is more than 70 years old and exhausted by a lifetime of hard slog. They have no bedding to even sleep on and their lullaby is the putrid water flowing in the gutter behind their home. The young children were dressed literally in rags till the team asked around and arranged some clothes for them, some brought with their own money. The grandmother does not understand daily medication and could forget to give Rahul’s dose leading to a whole new set of difficulties. This means that the team has to visit every single day to monitor the child till he is able to do it himself.

Seeing the situation, the Yerwada team started the family on crisis nutrition but the conundrum is how long can Sahara Aalhad support this family? It can’t be forever! But when you stand there and really witness the harsh reality of their lives one can truly understand the extent and depth of their helplessness.
Sahara Aalhad, though, will look to see how it can support the family through a partnership with local community involvement, with people who want to help and with those who care and want to see these young innocent children bloom.

Over and over again, it seems that there are no answers, very little hope, desperation edged with gloom but Sahara Aalhad’s experience, especially with tough cases, is that with patience and with prayer the forces of the Universe align to change things around. If you believe that good times are a-coming, they usually do