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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 December, 2003, 12:14 GMT
'I know how to protect other children'
As part of a BBC series on Aids, people living with HIV from around the world tell their own stories in their own words.

St Mary's Centre
Other children now sometimes come to play at the centre
Bogdan (not his real name), a 14-year-old Romanian, lives in the St Mary Centre for HIV-positive children who have been abandoned. He describes how he became infected, the prejudice he experiences and his hopes for the future.

I am the spokesman for the children from the St Mary Centre.

We are all between 13 and 15 years old and have been abandoned by our parents. My mother died, but my father is still alive. I also have a brother, a grandmother and a few cousins. I see them sometimes, mostly in school. My brother and my cousins go to the same school as I do.

I am HIV-positive, like the rest of the children at the centre.

I was diagnosed with HIV in January 1991 at the age of twenty five. Twelve years later I am more surprised than anyone to still be here
Jon, England

I became infected when I was very little, when I was one or two years old. I got the virus from another infected child. They gave me an injection.

They were supposed to disinfect the needle, but they didn't. They gave the shot first to an infected child and then to me. That's how I got the virus.

Sometimes I imagine the woman who gave me the shot. I think she was not very bright. That's how I imagine her. I don't think she wanted to infect me on purpose. She was just lazy, didn't bother to disinfect the needle. She was also old and that's why she wasn't punished. They forgave her.

Winning over the village

In any case I'm not at all convinced I have HIV. I really don't think so. I don't feel this disease in my body. I know that other children feel it, they're sick, but I'm not. I have the odd illness like any other child, infected or not, but that's all.

I came to live in the St Mary Centre this August. The house has been built especially for us. It is our home and we thank the villagers that they have eventually understood that we are not a danger to them and allowed us to settle here.

People didn't want their children to have HIV positive classmates at first but eventually they agreed - only one woman moved her child to another school
When we first came they were hostile though.

They thought we were going to throw infected needles and blood-stained dressings in our backyard and that their children might be put at risk.

They also said that the water we washed with would go into the River Golesti and their cattle will drink it and become infected. They simply didn't know, they were not informed. They kept gathering at the Town Hall and writing petitions against us.

But finally, through our care-givers' efforts and with the good God's help they stopped and they accepted us.

Keeping others safe

I go to school in the village now. There have been some problems there, too. People didn't want their children to have HIV-positive classmates. But eventually they agreed. Only one woman moved her child to another school.

I like going to school and I like the children in my class. They're nice, they help me and the other children from St Mary Centre. They even come to visit us in our home and we play together.

They are not at risk at all. I know how to protect them. If I have an open wound then I don't allow anybody to come anywhere close to me. I go straight to the nurse and tell her to wear gloves and dress my wound. God forbid I infect another child!

I want to have my own children one day. I think they are going to make a vaccine to cure HIV and Aids I know they are doing research in the US.

I want to have a family, a wife, a child and to become an IT specialist.

But they have to find the vaccine first.

The following comments reflect the balance of views we received:

A reminder of how much more work we as mankind have yet to do to make this place better for our children
Chaitanya, Mumbai

Very moving, very touching. Just a reminder of how much more work we as mankind have yet to do to make this place better for our children.
Chaitanya, Mumbai, India

Bogdan, you've brought tears to my eyes. You have such a beautiful soul! Bless you for being so wise and for sharing with us.
Kiryaki Bouloukos, Toronto, Canada

As I read this article and the comments of the readers, tears crept in and blurred my vision. As I once was a poor boy on the streets of Romania, I want to assure Bogdan and others like him, that dreams do come true. We are the reasons for creating cures, but we also become inspirations of human hope for a better world. Your story made its way across oceans and onto my computer screen in a laboratory where research for a cure will never stop. You are a hero to us all and an example of humanity at its best.
Victor Horodincu, San Diego, USA

When we are caught up in our daily problems we forget about the people that have to deal with serious issues such as living with Aids. But the amazing thing is when they do, they do so courageously and with dignity. Bogdan is one of those people that live a life by the grace under pressure principle. I wish all of us would learn from him and be a part of a more supportive and understanding community.
Zlatko, Skopje, Macedonia

While I am thinking of school and girls, he's thinking of survival
Ryan McBride, Sussex,

I am touched at the strength and the hope that lies within the child. I am not much older than he is but while I am thinking of school and girls, he's thinking of survival.
Ryan McBride, Sussex, England

Bogdan has learnt the lesson of life that only the fortunate few of us are destined to learn: complete acceptance without bitterness and with hope for a better tomorrow. This 14 year old is a success story.
Usha Narayanan, Cleveland, USA

I was born in Bucharest, Romania, and I actually lived right across the street from the largest Aids centre for kids in the world. I am amazed by the fact that my former country is still having such large number of infected children. I think one of the big Aids organisations needs to step up and develop a better education program over there. I think Bogdan's story is an example of the many smart and courageous children dealing with this disease.
Gabriel Muller, Cleveland, USA

It's a true story that makes me see reality and makes me believe that we live not in the image of ourselves, but in the image of our hope and courage.
Emilia Kanyama, Harare, Zimbabwe

There are so many people in the world that are infected that still live in fear and judgement of their communities
Charles Delevigne, Peterborough

It's a great story that he has to tell. There are so many people in the world that are infected that still live in fear and judgement of their communities where ignorance is part and parcel of the acceptance of HIV-positive people. I hope that others will come forward to tell their stories to ease the stigma that is so clearly still attached to People who are HIV-positive. I have full blown Aids and although I am well at the moment and responding to ARV'S, there have been times when the stigma has kept me from asking for help and thus I have become sick twice, almost dying both times. Keep up the strength and never give up hope and stay positive is the message that needs to befall anyone in this situation, and never be afraid to ask for help!
Charles Delevigne, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, England

A painful story, made more poignant by the glimmer of hope in this child. Seriously, this brings tears to my eyes.
Tom, UK

This kid made me see the other side of the coin: forgiveness and hope
Adriana Sanchez, Monterrey

I volunteer on a centre that helps people with Aids on terminal stage. I've only seen despair, regrets and resentment, this kid made me see the other side of the coin: forgiveness and hope. I truly admire this boy.
Adriana Sanchez, Monterrey, Mexico

What a courageous young man. I only hope my 14 year old grows up to be as smart and courageous as this young man. I pray they find help for him before it is too late.
Patrick Diveney, West Liberty, USA

I want to wish Bogdan all the best for the future. You're a fine young man, and I'd be happy for you to play with my kids. I really hope you get your IT exams and make a life for yourself, you're an asset to this earth and may your star shine for all to see. Best Wishes.
Geri Brown, Brighton, UK

Bogdan, you are an inspiration to all of us who are ignorant to the struggles of others less fortunate than ourselves. Your strength and courage are expressed through your article and for a 14 year old I admire your mature bravery. Keep hoping and do not let the disease you have get in the way of your dreams. Life is indeed short, so keep hoping. I wish you the best of luck with all you choose to do.
M Deva, Warwickshire

I believe this young lad could teach a lot of so called spiritual leaders how to live in hope
Eric Connor, Brussels

I too was touched by this story. I believe this young lad could teach a lot of so called spiritual leaders how to live in hope, and to live without resentments. These two qualities are essential in a world so full of hate and anger. I have always wanted to give my time for others when I retire, and this is the sort of story that only gives me the courage to do.
Eric Connor, Brussels, Belgium

I have a strong admiration for his courage to speak up. Unfortunately, in Romania people are not well informed about HIV/Aids and innocent children have to bear the burden. It is not fair. We need help and support from the International Organizations to educate the Romanian people regarding this issue. Our country is weak because of the internal massive corruption, the lack of jobs and the low salary. Although we are good people, lately we seem incapable of feeling the pain of the people around us. It's a shame, but we need a hint and we'll go from that point. Let's do something to help the innocent children and youth from my country.
Manuela Paraipan, Arad, Romania

For someone like me who is starting on the journey into the clergy, stories like this inspire me to help more within the world. This boy's courage and determination stand as a good reminder that there is always someone who has things worse. He is an inspiration to all of us.
Revnd J.H. Biggs, Wirral

I was both touched and angered by this story. To blame is to be intolerant. Yet I do blame the nurse who did this to the poor child. My only hope is for the vaccine to be found in time to help this child fulfil his dreams.
Maria Pia, Beirut, Lebanon


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