Raju is a 14 year old HIV +ve child. He is a young priest at a temple at Ujjain who teaches tabla and harmonium to children in his free time. When his best friend’s mother came to know about his status, she forbade them from playing together. She would yell and scream at Raju if he ever went to their house. They shifted to another locality soon after. After this incident Raju and his family members don’t tell about his infection to any one.
11 year old Subhash works at a garage. He left school soon after his teachers came to know about his infection. They would pass snide remarks about him and his parents’ right in front of the whole class.
I met Raju and Subhash along with others at Saathi Care Home a NGO working for HIV +ve people at Ujjain. All along my journey I was thinking about the comforting things I would say. If I was looking for remorse and repentance then I surely was in for disappointment. As we spoke I was surprised at their matter of fact approach to HIV. “I know I am positive but that’s about it,” said Raju. I knew that HIV positive people are always hesitant to share their stories but this group continued to amaze me. Not only did they share their experiences, they made me realize the relevance of it all. This group which comprises of women, children and men, support each other and also help address the discrimination often experienced by people who have HIV and their families. Their open acceptance of the disease has not only set them free but has given them a whole new sense of purpose. They feel better when they speak with others who are also fighting the disease and realize that that they are not alone in their ordeal. They now have become role models for others who have HIV and also play an important role in creating awareness in and around Ujjain.
What sets them apart is that almost all of them have a strong support system of their families and friends. The support of family and friends works in a constructive manner to help troubled individuals. Very often a HIV +ve person finds it difficult to talk to a doctor or a counselor but a support group and an equally supportive family helps them achieve a greater sense of identification as well as understand that they are not aloneIn cases where families have disowned the infected person support groups play an important role. Showing support to a HIV +ve person is imperative because of the mental and physical drain that the disease imposes on him as it runs its course.
For a HIV +ve person to feel safe, secure and accepted is the most effective way to first educate the infected person about HIV, dispelling his fears and worries. Second and very important step is to educate the family thoroughly as they are the crucial caregivers. Lastly educate the friends. This support system helps to normalize the fact that HIV infected people are just like everyone else.