18 December 2011
Chandreyee Ghose reports on the discrimination within the community of patients
Anjan Sil (name changed) is just another "bad HIV" from the city. It does not mean that his life is in greater danger. It means that he faces more discrimination than other HIV–positive patients.
The 30–year–old resident of Serampore is gay. He had been working with MSM (men having sex with men) since he was a student. When he tested positive in 2006 at 25, he thought he knew how to handle the trauma. He was wrong.
He was not prepared for the attitude of the health workers who he would have to deal with for years. Same for the counsellors who were appointed in government health centres to make the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS easier. They were not only outright rude and sarcastic; they also distinguished between MSM and "normal" people — pregnant women, children or those who had contracted the virus through blood transfusion.
Anjan would often receive cold stares and snide remarks from other patients as well. "You are so young and you already have the virus," a staff member remarked at an Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC). Government hospitals house these centres. Another asked him viciously why he preferred men.
"The very people who have been appointed to sensitise us about AIDS were making us more uncomfortable from the minute we entered an ICTC to get tested," he said.
Anjan was required to go to an Antiretroviral Therapy Treatment (ART) centre — also part of some government hospitals — for further tests, counselling and treatment. More rudeness, sarcasm and humiliation waited for him there. "I felt hesitant to continue the treatment," he added.