True grit: Holding fort against HIV

They all had different reasons that pushed them to live - an unborn child, an ailing mother or an unfulfilled dream. All of them had one thing in common; they had all battled a dreaded virus, scathing comments and isolation to tell their story.

Ahead of World AIDS day on December 1, HIV infected people from different parts of the city congregated at Government General Hospital on Friday to narrate their ordeal and their fight with a disease which was once considered a killer.

The people stood in stark contrast to the images usually portrayed of the HIV infected. “I am perfectly normal. I don’t see myself as a patient any more,” said 60-year-old Murugesh*, a caterer, who was diagnosed as HIV positive two decades ago. Like every other HIV infected person, the father of two thought he was as good as dead when he tested positive. “When I saw my wife and children, I re-discovered my will to live. I decided to fight against it till my last breath, and here I am two decades later,” smiled Murugesh.

While Murugesh found his strength in his family, Hema* knew it would be the end of the road for her only son if she succumbed to the virus. “My son was just four when my husband and I were infected. We had married against our families’ wishes. We knew he would have no one if we died,” said the 42-year-old, who was infected in 2001. “My husband died in 2004. My resolve to live only grew stronger after that. I did odd jobs to fund my son’s education. Many people turned me away when they got to know I had AIDS,” said Hema, who had a near death experience in 2006.

True grit: Holding fort against HIV The gathered people rued that despite awareness campaigns by the government, HIV infected and affected people have a tough time getting a job. “It is sad that they are still identified as patients who have a dreaded disease. While many are waking up to the fact that HIV can’t be transmitted through sharing a glass, the awareness hasn’t gone to the extent of employing infected people. While anti-retroviral drugs has helped manage the disease, we still need to come up with a tool to help them fight stigma,” said S Noori, president of South India Positive Network.

Doctors at the hospital said the antiretroviral therapy (ART) over the last decade has helped save a lot of HIV infected people. Since its initiation at the Government General Hospital in 2005, over 7,705 patients have registered till now. ART consists of a combination of at least three antiretroviral drugs to suppress the HIV virus and stop the progression of the disease.


The Times of India

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