Dr. Glory: Changing the Lives of Children Living with HIV in India
When Dr. Glory Alexander made the decision to dedicate her life’s work to people living with HIV/AIDS, she was doubted by many. But in the ‘80s and ‘90s there was genuine concern that India would be the next flash point for the HIV/AIDS crisis, and she felt it imperative to commit her knowledge and skills to preventing that situation from occurring.
“I saw my first patient with AIDS in 1987,” says Dr. Glory, the name she goes by with patients and friends. “He was a foreign national who knew he was HIV positive and came to India as the stigma in his own country was unbearable. I was influenced by his pain and loneliness. I thought to myself, ‘what manner of disease is this that causes a person to leave his family, his friends, and his country?’”
By the mid ‘90s, HIV/AIDS was a hard reality for many in India. In response, Dr. Glory founded ASHA Foundation (Action Service Hope for AIDS) in 1998, to meet not only the medical needs of people living with the disease, but to address the profound social consequences of it, too. ASHA provides comprehensive care ranging from awareness and prevention to counseling, care, and rehabilitation.
As recent as 2004, services like Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) and Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) were still unavailable, and a large number of children were born with HIV in the country. Dr. Glory realized that meant there were a growing number of children and young adults whose personal and social needs were not being met due to the shame and secrecy of their diagnosis. She found them to be low on confidence and self-esteem and they had difficulty adhering to their medications. In her search to help, Dr. Glory found SeriousFun Children’s Network and it seemed to answer her prayer.
In 2014, an existing camp partner in Chennai, India, Y.R. Gaitonde Centre for AIDS Research and Education, connected ASHA Foundation with SeriousFun’s Global Partnership Program and together created Camp Rainbow in Bangalore, India. The camp provided the safe and supportive environment that children living with HIV in the area truly needed.
“These are young children with many needs and desires,” says Dr. Glory. “By showing them love and concern and by encouraging them and responding to their doubts, we are showing them that they are important, that they matter, they can lead normal lives, they can choose a career, get married, and contribute to society and be an integral part of it.”
In a beautiful recognition of Dr. Glory’s many years of hard work, advancements, and commitment to the field, she was awarded the prestigious Dr. B.C. Roy Award—the highest Indian award in the medical category—in 2016. The award recognized her outstanding service in the field of socio-medical relief and was presented to her by the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee.
While national recognition certainly helps raise awareness of the critical need for services supporting children living with HIV in India, Dr. Glory is not yet satisfied that she has done enough and continues her life-changing work today.