Growing viral: health, hope, and happiness in the time of COVID and HIV

By: Dr. Anita Shet and Dr. Michael Raj

Originally published on

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine (Credit: Babu Seenappa)

The rising sun emblazons the children doing stretches after a three kilometer run. The day begins early in Snehagram; the children have already milked the cows, collected eggs and ripe passion fruit for breakfast, and finished their morning prayers. They are fresh-faced as they troop into the schoolrooms to begin their classes.

Tucked away among verdant rice fields and granite hills of Krishnagiri district near Bangalore in southern India, the 17-acre community of Snehagram is a residential and educational facility for HIV-positive adolescents.

When the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm, the Snehagram children were well-prepared. They have lived with loss. Many are orphans, having lost one or both parents to HIV. Several were relinquished by their families due to the stigma of HIV. But their resilience enabled them to protect themselves, find ways to obtain daily medications, help peers get medical care, and be exemplars in COVID-19 vaccine advocacy.

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