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Friday, 30 November, 2001, 14:51 GMT
Argentina's young Aids victims
Argentine Aids prevention poster
Aids campaign: Many mothers do not know they are ill
By the BBC's Lourdes Heredia in Buenos Aires

Thirteen-year-old Dario has lived in Buenos Aires' Muniz hospital in Buenos Aires for the last three months. He has Aids.

He contracted the virus at birth, as did 95% of the children infected with the HIV virus in Argentina.

My parents are not here anymore, but my grandmother always wakes me up for my medicines

Dario's is one of the 18,000 cases of the disease registered in Argentina, although the real number is believed to be up to seven times that.

Aids was first detected in Argentina in 1982.

When he is not in hospital, Dario says his life is like that of his peers.

"It's not that bad. The worst thing is having to wake up at night to take the medicines.

"Also I know I cannot run in the rain and I have to wear a sweater if it's cold. I have to be very careful not to get sick or they will take me to the hospital," he says.


Dario loves to play football and mess around like most other young teenage boys.

At the hospital his best friend is Lucas. They have a good time together, but now Dario wants to go back home.

Dario has drawn a picture for his sister
Dario has drawn a picture to give his sister when he returns home
"I miss my sister. She is five years old and she does not have any virus. She is really gorgeous," he says with a wide smile.

He shows a drawing which he will give to his sister when he returns home in a week's time.

Dario lives with his grandparents. His mother is dead and his father is in prison.

"My parents are not here anymore, but my grandmother always wakes me up for my medicines," he says.

"She's really good and she doesn't get angry when I don't want to swallow the pills."

Dario knows that he is different from other children, but he still believes he will become an architect or at least a builder like his grandfather.

Worst enemy

Dario is in hospital to try out a new treatment. His doctor is Robert Hirsch, who runs the unit for HIV-infected children at the hospital.

Sometimes the treatment does not work because they don't have enough food or because they are not given their regular doses of medicine

Dr Robert Hirsch
Dr Hirsch treats 130 youngsters, infected by their mothers during birth.

"The problem is that most of the time, not even the mother knows that she is sick," he says.

He adds that most of these children live in squalid conditions.

"These kids can be controlled with a good treatment. And they live virtually a normal life, but is not easy. Poverty is their worst enemy," he says.

"Sometimes the treatment does not work because they don't have enough food or because they are not given their regular doses of medicine."

The recession in Argentina, now in its fourth year, further complicates the situation.

Dr Hirsch says that he is not envied by his colleagues.

People believe that working with children infected by HIV can be very emotionally draining, but he says that it is just the opposite.

"They live for life. They never give up even when they are suffering. They are a model for many of their elders to follow," he says.

See also:

28 Nov 01 | Health
HIV discrimination 'rife'
28 Nov 01 | Health
'My fight against discrimination'
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