'Don't die, live with AIDS'
That's the message of two activists travelling across the country to give hope to thousands of HIV+ people who might otherwise have given up.
"You don't have to die, you can live with AIDS" — that's the message of two young activists travelling across the country to give hope to thousands of HIV-positive people who might otherwise have given up.
Anandi Yuvraj of Kerala and Brijesh Dubey of Rajasthan, both afflicted with the disease, were here to kick start what Uttar Pradesh has lacked so far — a mechanism for networking between its 1,200 HIV-positive patients who have mostly been suffering and dying in seclusion.
The two were all praise for the Uttar Pradesh AIDS Control Society (UPSACS) for establishing a network of these patients through ASHA or Alliance for Support of HIV/AIDS.
Uttar Pradesh Governor Vishnu Kant Shastri formally launched this voluntary organisation on Friday.
About a dozen HIV-positive patients from different parts of the country participated in the launch. Anandi and Brijesh narrated their own experiences to boost the morale of other participants.
Anandi and Brijesh gave candid accounts of how they fell victim to HIV.
"It was in 1997, just three years after my marriage, that the HIV virus was detected in my blood. My husband confessed how he had got the virus and that he had passed it on to me," said Anandi, 36, who hails from Erode, which has the highest incidence of AIDS in the country.
Though her husband died after two years, the dynamic Anandi displayed rare grit and determination to live.
"Yes, my decision not to bear children as I was bound to pass the virus to them did cause much turmoil in our family and even led to separation from my husband. He was keen on a child even after the disease was detected but I resisted and have no regrets today," she told IANS.
"Since then, my mission has been to build a bridge between HIV patients and the public," she said. "Let me tell you, I could achieve success simply because I decided not to have any qualms about disclosing my HIV status."
Anandi did face social rejection in the beginning. "But I took that in stride and firmly believed the right to live and die with dignity was a fundamental human right.
"I am aware that despite treatment, I have a limited span of life as other infective diseases become fatal because of low body immunity. Therefore, I want to devote whatever time I have to those who are like me."
Thirty-year-old schoolteacher Brijesh Dubey realised some nine years ago he was a victim of HIV — but was cowed down.
"I had the will to live and fight back, so I promptly made myself realise that I was not the only one. There were millions of people across the globe like me and that gave me the strength to fight against discrimination and humiliation," he said.
Dubey attributed the low level of social awareness about HIV to lack of proper direction at the highest level.
"I understand that the National AIDS Control Organisation has spent about Rs 10 billion in the name of creating awareness about the disease. Isn't it a matter of shame that despite that, 95 per cent of people totally lack sensitivity towards HIV victims," he lamented.
"A lot more could have been achieved if part of the funds was spent on treatment of poor HIV patients who cannot afford expensive treatment costing between Rs 2,000 and Rs 8,000 a month."
UPSACS director Aradhana Jauhari, the driving force behind the new impetus to the AIDS control programme in Uttar Pradesh, confirmed that patients in the state were not entitled to free treatment because prevalence of the disease was not high.
"We will try and push this with the national body," she asserted.