Changing mindset in Pune: More adopting HIV affected children

An encouraging trend is emerging in Pune where adoptive Indian families are showing greater willingness to accept HIV-affected children or kids who are negative but had HIV positive parents.

Officials at SOFOSH (Society of Friends of Sassoon Hospital), one of the leading adoption centres in Pune, say that they have managed about 4-5 such adoptions in a year. “Couples have become more open-minded now and have no problem in adopting children as long as they are confirmed HIV-negative.

Even if the parents had HIV, we inform couples about it and they have no issues,” said Sharmila Sayed, a counsellor at SOFOSH.
In an indication of greater confidence, over the past few years, young Indian couples are showing greater willingness to adopt HIV-affected children or those with disabilities. Earlier, it was only foreigners or NRI couples who would do so.

On an average, about 80 adoptions take place annually at SOFOSH. Of these, 25 children with some form of medical illness or minor disability have been placed for adoption. While the first adoption of an HIV-affected child took place a decade ago, so far, about 110 children with HIV-affected status have been
adopted by families.

In a recent case, an NRI couple adopted a two-year-old baby girl whose biological parents who live in Pune are poor and both are HIV positive. They approached SOFOSH even before delivery stating that they wanted to give up their newborn for adoption as there was no one in their extended family to look after the child.

In another case, a well-to-do banker couple adopted a three-year-old boy whose mother was HIV positive. The boy’s mother was unwed and had decided to give up the child due to social stigma, recalled SOFOSH director, Madhuri Abhyankar.

“We have parent preparation workshop where we prepare prospective parents on every aspect, especially medical. So they know about the disease well and have no problem if medical tests prove that the child is negative,” said assistant director at adoption centre Bhartiya Samaj Seva Kendra (BSSK), Maini Shetty.

“Indian couples only adopt children with minor and correctable problems, but if they have moderate or major illness or disability, they get rejected. In fact, foreign and NRI couples have adopted even hearing impaired kids or children with hole in heart. However, children with any major disability do not find homes,” Shetty said.

At SOFOSH, many adoptions have taken place of children with disabilities. In fact, some couples have done repeated adoptions of children with disabilities.

“Two months ago, a foreign couple adopted a child with a heart problem for the second time. Their first adopted child also had a heart problem and they got him operated for it. Not just that, a couple recently adopted a boy whose fingers and toes hadn’t developed, and got a corrective surgery done after adoption,” said Sayed from SOFOSH.

What makes adoption of children with disabilities from foreign couples higher is increased acceptance from society, support from governments in form of medical expenses and better medical care.

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