30 August 2010
A Gritty HIV+ Widow Refuses To Surrender To The Dreaded Infection. Instead, She Continues To Move On, Sending Across A Positive Message
From gloom to hope and now on the streets fighting for her rights, the journey of this 35–year–old HIV+ widow has been full of hurdles but she refuses to surrender. "What if I am HIV+. It’s only one of the infections of different diseases which people carry around. Just take precautions and carry on work normally. We will continue to suffer and denied rights till the fear of stigma prevails within us. Just stand up and fight to get your due," said Sharda, an HIV+ widow.
Sharda may not have got full justice till date but she is a source of inspiration of HIV+ women and widows who prefer to live and die in oblivion for fear of stigma. In many cases, they are disowned by in–laws and their own families, denied property rights. Many were left on the streets as destitute. The Lucknow Network of Positive on Friday organised a public hearing for HIV+ widows and women with the twin objective to inform them about their rights and the services available for their welfare in the state as well as to motivate them to fight for their rights and against discrimination by taking inspiration from the success stories.
Anuradha got married to Ram Naresh in 2001 and was blessed with a son within a year. But two months after birth, her son fell sick and died. Husband also did not survive for long. She was thrown out by in–laws who claimed that Ram had made his nephew the legal heir. But what made her suspicious was that Ram was highly educated, whereas the Will had his thumb impression. Hence, I filed a case in the court, said Aunradha for whom the fight is not for money but for her dignity.
Many such widows belong to low or lower middle class. After being thrown out, the basic question before them is survival. It is even more difficult for those having children. Suman with four children earns enough to meet ends but names of the children have been struck off by the school for non–payment of fees. "I have applied for freeship in the school, even offered to work for them if they allow my children to study," she said.
Leela was tested positive after birth of her daughter. Husband threw her out labelling her ‘infidel’ but kept the baby. Parents also refused to provide shelter. Neighbours helped at the hour of crisis.
"Till the time the feeling of ‘bechari’ (helpless) is inside, you cannot do anything. Overcome it and step out, you will find that there is no dearth of sensitive people ready to help," said Leela, narrating how neighbours helped her to stand on her feet and file a case for custody of child.
Kanmani Chandra, activist working with India Network of people living with HIV/AIDS (INP+) said that discrimination against HIV+ and denial of rights are found across the country but southern states, particularly in Kerala, public awareness has made it easy to rehabilitate such people, specially women.
"We need to provide vocational training to HIV+ women of their choice and calibre to help them become financially independent," she said. In Kerala such programmes have been a big hit with public support. The INP+, she said, is also signing a memorandum of understanding with funding agencies to provide money for vocational training to HIV+ widows and women.
FIGHTING AGAINST ODDS Around 1.4 lakh HIV+ and AIDS patients in UP. Eastern UP most affected. Mostly migrant labourers. Around 1000 HIV+ enrolled with Over 2000 HIV+/AIDS persons in the city, of which around 1000 registered with Lucknow Network for People living with HIV. But many still living in anonymity AN HIV+ WANTS From Government | Antyodaya cards for positive widows thrown out of houses. Platform for speedy trial of denial of rights and discrimination.
From Society | Equal opportunity and to stop discrimination. Acceptability of victims will help in prevention.
From Media | Stop quacks from advertising that they have a treatment for AIDS. Make AIDS awareness a year round activity
From NGOs | Not to make them a him/her a source of business. Right(s)
To informed consent for HIV testing. To keep HIV status confidential. Against discrimination due to HIV status. To seek legal remedy if rights violated.
Medicines to treat infections such as TB, Pneumonia etc, antibiotic to prevent infections followed by anti–retroviral therapy (ART) — drugs combination to restrict virus multiplication.
CSMMU, BHU, medical colleges of Meerut, Gorakhpur, Allahabad, and Aligarh. ART link centres in every district hospital.
The HIV/AIDS Bill has two main objectives
To protect the rights of those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS and to prevent and control the spread of HIV/AIDS. The Bill has been pending with the union government since 2006, hanging between union health and law ministries. Key issues addressed in the Bill include discrimination, disclosure, safe working environment, social security, informed consent, access to treatment, risk reduction, States obligations, redressal of grievances, special procedures in courts, enforcement of mandatory health care and penalties for non–implementation of law.
Raghvendra | PROJECT COORDINATOR INP+
Kanmani | PROJECT MANAGER INP+
Amitabh | PRESIDENT LNP+