By Sangeetha Rajeesh
Bargur Village, Krishnagiri District, Tamil Nadu
17 May, 2007
Twenty-two-year old Zaibuen can be seen holding her third child Zabeena in her arms, comforting the little girl. Chubby-cheeked Zabeena had tested positive in a HIV test and is on ART (Anti- retroviral Therapy) for the last ten months.
Zaibuen was barely a teenager when she married Hussain. “I have three children,” she tells us with a vacant expression, “the eldest is nine-year-old Mubeena and the second child is Rizwan. He is five years old.” Both Mubeena and Rizwan go to a local Government run school and have tested negative for HIV. This, Zaibuen feels is blessing. “I would not want my other children suffering like her,” she says pointing at Zabeena.
Hussain drives an auto-rickshaw for a livelihood and had no idea he contracted HIV. “It was only when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in August 2006 and his blood test was positive that we knew he had HIV,” Zaibuen recalls. She relates how the village planning volunteers had suggested that she take the blood test. Ziabuen tested positive for HIV. It turned out that not only were Hussain and Zaibuen HIV positive but little Zabeena too. Now, both mother and child travel to Chennai to get their monthly dosage of ART.
“Earlier, my parents-in-laws and parents helped us out financially but now we are left to fend for ourselves,” says the young mother. Hussain, has been sick with tuberculosis for almost ten months and has been advised to finish the course of prescribed medicines and start on ART. She complains that her husband’s meager income varies from Rs 50 to Rs 100 per day and is not enough to feed so many mouths. “To add to all our miseries, he has a drinking problem as well,” she laments, “and almost never brings home any money.” To make ends meet, Zaibuen works as a labourer in the village, de-seeding tamarind pulp for a daily wage of Rs 10 to Rs 15. “It is a back-breaking job and most of the time I am too weak to work the required number of hours but I don’t have a choice,” she says. “How else will I be able to provide the nutritious food for Zabeena?” Zaibuen wonders.
There are many more families in Krishnagiri, who are affected by AIDS and are in constant need of counseling and therapy. UNICEF along with the Tamil Nadu State Aids Control Society has helped spread HIV awareness through its volunteers and with the help of the Integrated Counselors and Testing Centres, provided testing and counseling facilities all over the district.
Recently an ART Centre was started in the neighboring district so that Zaibuen and others like her do not have to travel all the way to Chennai to get their medicines.
Zaibuen knows that her future is filled with uncertainty, “We are buried in debt and even the auto Hussain drives is rented,” says this young mother, “nevertheless I am grateful that Zabeena’s situation was diagnosed early and that she is able to receive treatment.”