‘I never knew my husband had AIDS, until he died, kin hid it ’
Now, the woman is not only leading a healthy life but is also helping other women struggling with HIV. Three years ago, she arranged a marriage of a widow who was HIV positive.punjab Updated: Dec 08, 2017 00:01 IST
Their husbands cheated on them and their lives were turned upside down without any fault of theirs. But instead of giving up, these women chose to fight back.
On the World AIDS Day, HT spoke to few women, who are widows of HIV positive men.
Pooja Thakur, 35, CNP+ president
“I don’t want to hide my identity. How will I remove the stigma attached to HIV AIDS, if I will hide my name?” asks Pooja Thakur, president, Chandigarh Network of People living with HIV AIDS (CNP+) while narrating her story.
Thakur is a mother of three. About 12 years ago, she got to know that her two-year-old son was HIV positive. She could not believe it and got him tested thrice. But the reports were the same. To know how he got infected, HIV test of the entire family was done. “It was June 2005, when four of the five family members were detected HIV positive. Only my eldest son is negative,” says Pooja, whose husband died the same year because of AIDS.
“He died because of guilt,” she says. Pooja’s husband was a truck driver and used to stay outdoors mostly. She was only 21 when her husband died. “Within 15 days of my husband’s death, my in-laws threw me and my children out of the house. My parents also could not bear our burden,” recalls Pooja, who has only studied till Class 8 and found it difficult to earn a living.
A call at Chandigarh State AIDS Control Society (SACS) helped her at that moment. “They made me an outreach worker and next year I became the society president,” said Pooja, who is now a graduate. She counsels other people suffering from HIV and helps several other widows. There are over 50 widows registered with us, she said. They are given monthly pension of ₹1,000 by the administration.
Meena Vij, 46
December 7, 1994 – the date Meena Vij can never forget. “It was on this day when I got to know that I was HIV positive. I was pregnant and only 25 -year-old then,” said Vij. “The first thought that crossed my mind was what will happen to my child as I am going to die.” At that time, she did not know that her husband, a dhaba owner, was also HIV positive. “I had my doubts as I knew he had multiple sex partners and his medical reports proved that later,” said Meena. Her husband died of AIDS in 2004, when she was 31. “Discrimination was quite common at that time. My family stopped eating with me, they separated my kitchen. I got hurt because of all this,” recalls Meena. But she did not lose hope. She took charge of the dhaba and started taking care of her health.
“Today, I have completed 13 years with HIV. I regularly take my medicine, have adopted a healthy lifestyle and have never faced any health issue,” she says as a smile brightens her face.
Sangeeta Devi, 38
“I lived a horrific life, till I came in contact with this society. My husband died a painful death because of AIDS,” says Sangeeta Devi. “I never knew he had AIDS, until he died. My relatives hid it from me and I am still annoyed with them,” she said. Sangeeta Devi took her four children to Chandigarh and settled here. In 2006, she was detected with skin TB and tests revealed she was HIV positive also. “I cried the entire day and thought I will die the same way my husband died. The thought of children worried me more,” said Sangeeta. However, she is not only leading a healthy life but is also helping other women struggling with HIV. Three years ago, she arranged a marriage of a widow who was HIV positive.
Baljinder Devi (name changed)
In 2005, her husband died of HIV AIDS and her in-laws threw her out of the house. They took away her daughter and Baljinder has not seen her face in the last 15 years. “I have been living alone since 2005, until my friend convinced me to remarry. I thought who would marry a woman who is HIV positive and a widow?” recalls Baljinder, 40, who got remarried 3 years ago. “My husband told me that though he was little reluctant but his sons convinced him to go ahead. I am grateful, that I have got a new family,” smiles Baljinder.