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Home sweet home...for Aids family

Nafisa Ali with her team at the Holistic Care Centre in Rajokri. Photo: S. Subramanium.  

"MY NAME is Asong Rom. I am 29-year-old. I belong to Mizoram. I was a State level football player in 1992. I represented Meghalaya in under-19 category in 1993-94. But in 1995, my friends introduced me to drugs. I became an addict. When tested positive, I was expelled from the team. All my dreams of becoming an international level football player shattered. I ran away from there. I knew if I stay there, I would never be able to leave drugs."

This is not just a drug addict narrating his tale but also an Aids patient at Ashraya, a home-plus clinic for Aids victim at Rajokri Village, a kilometre from Radisson Hotel at Dhaula Kuan. Asong may be battling for life today but he is certainly not a heart-broken man. He is given the best of treatment and comfort to live in an ambience of love and care. "Today is my birthday," he is encouraged to tell all coming to see him on April 1.

Like Asong, there are many other patients that include seven and 12-year-old children, sister and brother whose grandmother lives in the U.S. and sponsors antiretroviral drugs for them.

Home sweet home...for Aids family

Housed across 10,000 sq feet, Aashray is India's pilot project with the Delhi Government under the Bhagidari Scheme, inaugurated by the Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit past December. It is social activist Nafisa Ali's brainchild. It is Action India's Holistic Care Home which is a non-profitable trust headed by her.

Visit the place and you would witness all that turns a house into a home. A well-maintained kitchen that provides balanced diet to patients, music system, television, sofas, beds, and library, spic and span washrooms, big, airy drawing, dining, bedrooms, separate for men, women and children. Nafisa herself has painted the walls. There are rabbits and ducks, small pond for them, trees aesthetically lined and sprawling lawn that proudly boast of fresh air in a pollution-ridden Delhi.

But hold on. There is one big shipping container converted to classroom, well-equipped with cost-effective technology DVD players, having separate workstations allowing comfortably at least 16 people to learn at one go about health, agriculture, hygiene, income generation, childcare, self esteem, etc in vernacular as well as English language. "It has been sent to us by Starfish Initiative from Cherie Booth, 10 Downing Street, London," informs Nafisa. "But our custom duty fellows took Rs.2 lakh to release the donated item," she moans.

Currently, Ashraya has 12 people, including the doctor and nurses to look after the patients. Interestingly, some patients are involved in the maintenance as it divides their time and keeps them agile. "Though we have a capacity of 60 beds here but there is lack of sponsorship right now. NACO is sponsoring 10 patients, rest of them come and go after counselling or treatment at OPD," informs Nafisa.

The making of Ashraya faced two-years of constant follow up by Nafisa with the Government, and much persuasion to the people living in and around it. "They were very apprehensive that Aids will spread in the village. I asked them, why would I go to them if I had a fear of catching it? My children come and play with Aids children. They are convinced now." That's the first step of a long, long journey.