In this episode of Chigurida Badaku, RJ Radha speaks with Rathna of Swathi Mahila Sangha regarding PPTCT (Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission) of HIV/AIDS.
Counseling for HIV+ pregnant women draws heavily from information on their living environment, their vulnerabilities, and other factors that play key roles in their lives and hold the potential of jeopardising the safety of the unborn child. It is ultimately the choice of the woman if she wants to have the baby or not – whether she and her support system are capable of sustaining a new person in this world, or if childbirth will risk her life and care-giving future.
Rathna gives first-hand accounts of the various cases she has had the opportunity of managing. One such disturbing but empowering case was that of a 25-year-old widow who had been forced into sex work at the age of 12 by her alcoholic mother. The girl had been married off to her mother’s alcoholic brother and had given birth to a daughter at the age of 22. She had no idea who the biological father of the child was and had had little access to medical facilities during her pregnancy. It was during her pregnancy that she got tested for HIV and found out about her positive status. With no family members who could support her through the dark times, the young woman had approached Rathna for help.
Rathna and Swathi Mahila Sangha had taken this woman under their wings and ensured that she had a healthy and safe delivery. Her daughter tested negative for HIV and currently lives in a hostel, while her mother works closely with the organisation, providing sex education and information on practising safe sex to PLHIV.
Rathna’s analogy comparing the counselor and beneficiary relationship with the mother-and-child equation throws new light on the dynamic that plays out in organisations that work with sex workers and members of sexual minorities. She believes that the counselor plays a critical social role – like a mother does. Those who come to the organisation looking for help are like children who are in dire need. “It is the duty of the counselors to raise them right, to help them make their life right.”
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