Times of India
01 December 2010
By Jayashree Nandi & Sunitha Rao R
World AIDS Day
So true is the saying – every cloud has a silver lining. And Chandrika Avinash’s story is one such powerful example. She has been suffering with HIV for 14 years now and has lost her husband to it. But Chandrika hasn’t accepted defeat. She is battling her way through bravely, counselling others affected by the disease.
Besides, she takes care of HIV–positive children too, giving them enough boost to live healthy and free of any inhibition. On the eve of World AIDS Day, Chandrika spoke to TOI on her journey from realizing she was affected to striving for the welfare of HIV–affected working women in the state.
What inspired you to embark on this journey?
I learnt I was HIV positive a long time after my husband was diagnosed with the disease. In 1998, our family doctor had asked my husband to get a HIV test done, and he showed positive. My inlaws were aware of it and asked him to stay in a separate room.
I was not informed, but asked to
keep away from him. I learnt of it only after three months and got myself tested, only to show positive. It was devastating and I wanted to commit suicide. Our’s was an inter–caste love marriage and I had fought my way through to marry him. What’s worse, even my son tested positive. So, it was traumatic.
Any social consequences that you faced after your husband’s death?
After my husband’s demise, I was asked to marry my husband’s brother. Nobody knew even I was infected. I finally revealed this just before the wedding, only to be shunned by everyone.
I was literally thrown out of the house. That is when I joined Sevakendra, where I was given antiretroviral treatment. I started working as a maid to earn a living. At that time, my son had developed TB, meningitis and pneumonia.
Did you undergo counselling?
I was extremely depressed and suicidal thoughts often cropped into my head. I then started consulting a counsellor at Bowring hospital, and I realized death comes to everyone, so why not enjoy life until then.
What activities are you into now?
I am working as a counsellor with Milana, an NGO that supports HIV–affected persons. I travel a lot and meet such people and boost their confidence, besides advising them on right medical care. I was undergoing treatment at Asha centre before becoming a nurse there.
Any message on World AIDS Day?
The state government and health department have done nothing for people’s welfare. The Karnataka State Aids Prevention Society hardly updates its website. It has no clear idea about the total number of HIV–positive people in Karnataka.
We don’t just need treatment, but good nutrition supplements too, for which there’s no government help. Let the government hear us during the Bengaluru HIV Okkuta that meets every third Friday. It will understand the reality behind our laughter and sighs.
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