Y.Ç. can only be identified by his initials, but the young boy living close to the picturesque city of Şanlıurfa is one HIV patient who deserves special praise for having to begin his struggle against the incurable disease when he was just one-and-a-half years old.
His father Mehmet Ç., a construction worker, had inadvertently knocked over the tea kettle onto the floor, but what seemed a minor accident became a major one as the boiling water spilled over his little son.
The boy, suffering severe burns had to be transferred to the hospital urgently, where his life was to be irrevocably changed. During the medical intervention, Y.Ç. received a blood transfusion contaminated with the HIV virus, condemning him to spend the rest of his life depending on pills for his survival.
That year was 2008. Now at seven years old, Y.Ç. is almost a normal boy who goes to school, plays with his friends and dreams about of his future life, just like any other child.
“I want to be a doctor when I grow up so I can heal patients,” Y.Ç. told Anadolu Agency a day before World AIDS day. According to official data, there are less than 7,000 HIV patients in Turkey among whom only 1,096 have been diagnosed with AIDS.
Noting that Dec. 1 was World AIDS day, the father Mehmet Ç. expressed his sympathy for all the HIV sufferers. He said his son was doing well for the moment and the whole family tried to be helpful to him. However he complained about the lack of assistance for the family, particularly for legal and medical procedures. Both father and son needed to travel to Ankara every three months as part of the treatment. Mehmet Ç. also told local newspapers in a separate statement that he had to move to the outskirts of his village after initially being marginalized by locals.
The trial opened after the transmission the HIV-contaminated blood resulted in the conviction of the nurse who dealt with the boy during his treatment at the hospital. The court handed down a five-month jail sentence, which it then turned into a cash fine. No doctor or hospital official was sentenced for neglect. But the family’s lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeals also filing a complaint against the Ministry of Health.
According to the ministry’s statistics, HIV most frequently occurs in the 20 to 49 age range in Turkey, while 72 percent of all patients are male. Y.Ç. is one of the youngest patients who has to fight against the disease. His father Mehmet expressed outrage that those responsible had not been convicted in the last five years. He also reproached Turkish mainstream media outlets for not remembering his son’s case ahead of World AIDS Day.
The ratio of HIV sufferers compared to the country’s population is comparatively a very low one in Turkey, where using contraceptives has yet to become a widely adopted practice.
Many experts signal that the real number of those affected is exponentially higher, describing the extent of undiagnosed HIV patients as a huge risk in terms of an epidemic. They also say that many patients hide their illness because of social pressure, prejudices and lack of solidarity.