HIV+ men want singles only

Keen on life partners, many HIV+ men in Mumbai don?t want to marry widows and divorcees, writes Anjali Doshi.

india Updated: Feb 15, 2006 01:26 IST

Many HIV+ men in Mumbai are keen on finding HIV+ life partners but don’t want to marry widows and divorcees. This poses a problem since HIV+ single unmarried women are a rarity in the city.

“This is because 80 per cent of HIV+ women contract the infection from their husbands,” says Population Services International’s (PSI) national HIV/AIDS coordinator Dr Shilpa Merchant. PSI and Positive People’s Foundation (PPF) are NGOs working for welfare of HIV+ people that also function as marriage bureaux. An increasing number of HIV+ men and women between the ages of 20 and 35 are using their services to find life partners.

PSI, a non-profit organisation, has a total of 70 persons registered: 50 men and 20 women. While most of the men are single, 15 of the 20 women are widows with a child or more.

The skewed numbers mean HIV+ men have a tough time finding a single (read unmarried) woman. “They eventually settle for a widow but don’t know how to explain the child from their wife’s first marriage to their extended family,” says Merchant. A fact corroborated by PPF, that offers to unite HIV+ people on a less formal level than PSI.

Another problem is that those registered come from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, making it even harder to find a match. “But as the awareness about the helpline and marriage bureau grows, more people are coming forward to register,” said Ashay Kurnurkar, president, PPF.

On the face of it, PSI is like any other marriage bureau: applicants fill a form mentioning their career achievements, academic qualifications, family background, caste and sub-caste. The difference? There is another form where applicants list physical ailments, drugs and other medical information.

PSI united six couples in the last year while PPF has united 12. “In the last year or so, a lot of people have been enquiring about the service,” Kurnurkar added.

Laali, a sales executive and performing artiste, registered with PSI last December. The 26-year-old, who contracted the infection from her husband soon after they were married, lost him in 2003. “Being HIV+ can be very lonely sometimes. The bureau is a great idea as husband and wife can support each other through the illness,” she said.

Couples united through PSI are advised not to indulge in unprotected sex as the couple may be in differing stages of HIV/AIDS. They are also advised not to have children as there is a high chance of the child being born HIV+.

First Published: Feb 15, 2006 01:12 IST