HIV/AIDs in Russia: New hope for HIV-positive orphans | DW Stories

Here at the Akvarel orphanage, the day begins
at seven a.m. Everyone knows what to do. They take the same medications in the same
dosage, mornings and evenings. Akvarel is home to forty boys and girls from
four to seventeen years old. They’re called ‘plusiki’ and ‘minusiki’, the
terms for HIV-positive and negative children here. “When we opened this home twelve years ago,
at first, the HIV-positive children were kept separate. The sofas could be wiped clean, the floors
had no rugs. The dishes were soaked in disinfectant in
big containers. It was very hard to create a tolerant environment
for them. It took six years before all the staff members
learned to accept and respect these children.” Now, the ‘plusiki’ and ‘minusiki’ play together. They all have much the same routine. They’re all growing up without parents in
this one-of-a-kind home in the southern Russian city of Chelyabinsk. Now, everyone here knows there’s no danger
of picking up the virus from the HIV-positive children – not even if someone should suffer
a cut. Caregivers are never far from the youngest
kids, and the older ones know the virus is instable and dies if it comes in contact with
air. “One of my friends sleeps in the same room
with me. He’s HIV-positive. One day before I found out, I came in, and
he said, I’ve got to tell you something: I’m HIV-positive. I was scared at first, but then he told me
how it’s transmitted. And since then, everything’s been OK. I treat him completely normally.” One third of the children here were born of
HIV-positive parents – many of whom were also alcohol or drug-abusers. They lost custody of the children. Some of the parents don’t even know where
their children are. At Akvarel, they grow up in a safe environment. They learn from the start to approach their
HIV infection with confidence – unlike many adults. “Once, our kids went to a summer camp. The first evening, the children were bathed. The door opened, and the camp director peeked
in – as if our children had four ears and two heads! Another time, my co-worker asked, ‘Marina,
what should I do? They’ve brought us an H-I-V-positive boy’. I said, ‘Off to the cellar with him. Lock him up! She was bewildered. I said, ‘What do you think? Let him play with the others, of course!” As the day closes at Akvarel, everyone knows
just what to do: the same medications in the same dosages – every evening. Everyone here is worried about what will become
of the kids once they leave the home. Many of them were born with disabilities because
of their mothers’ alcohol or drug abuse. Unless they are adopted, they will likely
be left to fend for themselves for the rest of their lives.