Hina Banu thought of committing suicide when she became HIV infected. Six years later, she is fighting discrimination against HIV positive people and teaching them how to live with the disease.
Associated with the NGO ActionAid for the last three years, 27-year-old Hina from Davangere district in Karnataka works among HIV positive people, counselling them on how to overcome their suffering and make life productive.
ActionAid organised a four day National Conclave of Marginalized Social Groups here from June 11 where Hina shared her experiences and inspired many AIDS patients who attended the meeting.
The conclave, which concludes on Thursday, called for making anti-retroviral (ART) treatment accessible to all HIV positive people. Break in supply of ART drugs can shorten the lifespan of AIDS patients. Only 6.8 per cent of those with advanced HIV infection in India have access to ART.
According to ActionAid, as many as 5.7 million Indians are HIV positive and the virus killed over 270,000 people in 2005. Some experts dispute this figure.
Abhay Bimba, the NGO established by Hina in Davangere, works among HIV positive people and high-risk groups and gives them useful tips on how to protect themselves.
"I don't want people to undergo the kind of pain and suffering which I had to undergo and that is why I tell them that they can live a fulfilling life without bothering too much about their disease," Hina told IANS.
"I also give health tips to them and advise them to take more nutritious food and protect themselves from cold, cough and other infections," she said.
Born in a poor Muslim family, Hina was educated only up to Class 10. She was married off at the age of 20. When she got pregnant, doctors diagnosed that she is HIV positive.
"I did not even know what HIV positive is but doctors told my family that it is a dangerous disease and whoever comes into contact with me may also get affected," said Hina.
Her parents and in-laws boycotted her but her HIV positive husband stood by her.
"Ostracized by the family and society, we shifted to Bangalore. It was the worst moment of my life. We were thinking of ending our lives when I met a counsellor from ActionAid who encouraged us to live," she said.
Hina and husband then returned to Davangere to fight for not just themselves but hundreds of other HIV positive people.
"We tried to mobilize HIV positive people and started educating them about the disease and the precautions to be taken. It was difficult in the beginning but we finally succeeded in convincing them," she sad.
Although Hina's husband died a year ago, she continued with her struggle. "My parents and other family members also accepted me back," she said.