Several HIV+ single women, mostly from lower economic strata, face social stigma for all their life and find it hard to sustain families left behind by their husbands who gave them the deadly infection. Some fail but some face it with a positive attitude.
A case in point is this 42-year-old mother of three children, living with her old mother-in-law near Malwa Mill in Indore and striving hard to run her family with the meagre income she and her son generate through daily wages. Here is the story of Uma (name changed) as told to Nivedita Khandekar:
“Exactly a year ago, my world came crashing down. I could not believe, my husband not only left this world but also left me in the lurch. He was suffering from AIDS and passed on the infection to me. The first blow came when my husband tested positive for HIV about four years ago. We — myself, my children – married elder daughter and a son and daughter who stay with me and my mother-in-law, all were shocked.
The first thought was “what would people say?” And say they did — not on our faces but behind our back. The social stigma is something, which you would not imagine.
For months together, I served my husband, who lost weight fast, was not able to work and was bedridden soon. Even when I was aware what lay ahead of me, I spared no efforts to serve him. After running from pillar to post, finally I took him to MY Hospital.
There too, it was an effort to take him to the fifth floor and people used to stare at me when I dragged him up and down the stairs. All through this trauma, there was one constant support, — my mother-in-law.
But then, he had to go. That was exactly one year ago. It was hard, real hard. First, with the kind of value system we have, it was a blow that my husband has acquired this disease. Then, his death, even when we knew it was inevitable.
And the most unfortunate part was, even when he was aware of the consequences, he passed the infection to me.
I too had undergone a test but was never told that even I have been tested positive. Could not know myself being an ‘anguthachhap’.
It was only after my husband’s death I underwent the test again and after counselling by an NGO, started taking Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) from the ART Centre M Y Hospital here.
Well, with an ailing husband, the society did not raise much stink, but after his death, it was a hard path for me as a single woman with a stigma. For months, I was in a state of depression. I would not even speak with anybody properly and was not even ready to hear the ‘HIV/AIDS’ words. It was as if my world had come to an end.
In the meantime, my elder daughter was married off in spite of the stigma. She is lucky to get a good groom. But our lives continued in stark darkness.
And then, came a ray of hope. Some months ago I met Didi (a worker with an NGO Child in Need Institute (CINI)). Slowly and slowly, she took me into confidence and after counselling, I started going to the meetings where I met people with similar problem. It was heartening to know there are other people too (people living with HIV/AIDS); I am not the only one to face this kind of situation.
That was a turning point in my life, a real ray of hope. I began to come out of my own cocoon. I was surprised to note the change in my own attitude. One who was not willing to move out of house, today I go to work as a daily wager on a handloom. My 18-year-old son too has started working in a chemist’s shop.
When I know, I have to die with this; I am a changed person today. I am prepared for “Whatever would be would be.”