The stigma faced by the HIV community is not hidden from us. They face problems in their education, work and are always treated as social outcasts. They seek support from their family when everyone else rejects them. But what happens when their own family doesn’t accept them? Who will they go to? Radha, who has gone through this problem, tells us her story.
“When I was six months pregnant, I came to know that I am HIV+ and my baby was at risk. I went through treatments to prevent the baby from contracting HIV from me in the womb. But even after taking these measures, my baby tested positive after she was born. I brought the baby home from the hospital and that is when I realized how unaware people were about HIV. My brothers and sisters refused to touch the baby because they thought they would get HIV by touching her. They even forbade their children from playing with my daughter. The people who should have been my support system had turned their back on us. As she grew up, she was never hugged or kissed by anyone in the family, apart from me. Her treatment continued. After two years, she was tested again and I was overjoyed to know that she had been cured. I announced the news to my family. But they still treated her the same way. No one would go near her, eat with her or play with her out of fear. I also faced the same treatment. I explained to my relatives that nothing would happen if they touched her but no one would believe me. My mother-in-law even stopped me from going into the kitchen. I wasn’t allowed to cook anything as they thought the food I had prepared would infect them also. After this, I left home with my daughter. Today we live separately but we are happy. Now she is 16 years old and a 10th grade student. She doesn’t face any discrimination anymore, as time is a great healer”
After all these years, even my mother-in-law has started to treat us well. Now she understands that HIV doesn’t spread by touching an HIV positive person.”
It has taken Radha and her daughter sixteen years to earn the love of their family. The common misconceptions regarding HIV have to be removed from people’s minds. By spreading awareness, people can learn more about this condition and one day no HIV positive patient will face any stigma from society.
– RJ Vimala Bai ( Transcribed by Indrani )