21 November 2011
By M T Saju
Many Face Stigma From Family, Society
A strange smell of medicine permeates the air when Muniyammal turned the pages of her antiviral treatment record. The 200–page notebook has details of her treatment from the day she tested HIV positive. Five years ago, when her husband Raman, a rabbit–hunter, died due to AIDSrelated illness what he left was a ruined house and five children. Muniyammal somehow managed to get a loan from the bank and renovated the house.
Two years after her husband’s death, she tested positive. Her sons left their mother once they got to know about her status. Now, amid bouts of tuberculosis, Muniyammal has to take care of her two daughters, Pachammal (13) and Meenammal (11). Muniyammal’s is not a lone case, there are many like her in the Achapatti Street in Kariapatti, a panchayat town in Virudhunagar district.
Kariapatti has a population of 1.65 lakh. The number of HIV cases is increasing in this village due to various reasons. In 2008, there were only 17 HIV cases recorded, but in 2009 it rose to 55 and in 2010, it went to 58. There are 22 discordant couples in Kariapatti area alone. At least 45 people have tested positive so far this year. There are a few reasons for the increased rate of HIV incidents in Kariapatti, according to Mercy Annapurni of the Blossom Trust, an NGO based in Virudhunagar.
“There is a sizeable population of masons who go to Mumbai, Tirupur and Coimbatore for temporary works and return with the virus. Since Kariapatti is the town for all the other villages, transgenders from other places come in groups and camp in the town for commercial sex,” says Annapurni.
Kamala, another villager, says she knew about her status only after her husband’s death. Living alone in an old house without regular income, none of her four children visit their mother. Frustrated, the 49–yearold even skips her medicine. And this, according to healthworker Muthulakshmy, is a serious problem.
“Social stigma prevents many from having medicines on time. If the patients are aged, then the level of frustration they are undergoing will be high. Many even skip their medicines due to this. We have to monitor each and every one,” says Muthulakshmy, who has been working for the welfare of the villagers for 10 years.
Rajam was not aware of her status until she gave birth to her daughter. Staying in a rented house, she struggles to meet the day’s end. “I don’t have a regular income. My daughter is studying. I don’t know how to survive,” she says.