Guntur (Andhra Pradesh): Four-year-old Prashanthi is nothing short of a miracle baby for her parents, both of whom are HIV positive. And Prashanthi is a miracke baby for she has tested negative for the virus.
Her father, Sathyanarayana, who is a contract labourer, says, "Before she was born, I used to think there was no point in living. Now that we have a child, there's hope for the future."
And the man who's responsible for this miracle is Dr Vasanth Kumar, a gynaecologist in Guntur's Government Hospital.
Over the last five years, Dr Kumar has worked with close to 300 HIV positive couples to show them that they too can have children who don't carry the dreaded virus. The doctor administers a dose of a drug called Nevirapine Prophylaxis to an HIV positive mother at the time of delivery and to the child immediately afterwards. The treatment lays a lot of emphasis on prenatal care, and neonatal treatment for the baby.
"There's a myth and a misconception that HIV positive couples cannot have children. It's wrong. They too can have children," says Dr Kumar.
Dr Kumar has also set up a focus group of HIV positive couples, which meets regularly and educates couples about proper medical care.
One such HIV positive whose wife has been able to deliver babies under Dr Kumar's expert care, Lateef says, "We eat and sleep happily now. Our children are fine. The doctor advises us and takes care of us and our children."
In Guntur at least, negative can most certainly be positive news.
(With inputs from Vishwanath Pilla in Guntur)