Not Anil Ambani or LN Mittal, not Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Ji or Amir Khan, neither any person holding a government stature nor a person that would hold any significance in your life. This time in the limelight we bring to you someone you might click the home option seemingly uninterested to hear about, or perhaps scared that some virus through the PC might just make you a victim of the Invincible. It sounds incongruous presently but we are sure people like us would and blatantly do it. This time it is a person long forgotten, whose emotions have been completely neglected and discarded by our society just because they say it isn’t the right way. He is (name undisclosed) an HIV carrier and has discussed the discrimination, stigmatization and denial that he has been put through. He story has touched me. He was simple, down to earth, jolly hearted and unfathomably touching in whatever he said.
VP: Hello sir, we have heard a great deal about people with this infection, but to meet somebody like you is a completely different and empathetic moment. Sir, for how long have you been in this NGO?
XYZ: It feels great that somebody came up to me and to be precise enough, not scared to come up to me. (A smile) Having an HIV virus in me, is something that has been terrible for me and has changed my life all through. It’s been 4 and a half years since I have been carrying this HIV status and it’s been terrible. I was shifted to this NGO some two years back when things weren’t going right.
VP: Sir, what are the reasons that brought you to this NGO? I mean from what I know, HIV is not contagious through saliva, water and food sharing and touch. And you have your family as well. Was there any sort of discrimination that came upon you and perhaps that’s why you are here?
XYZ: No, no that is not true. My family had been completely supportive. Initially, there were a lot of problems because we weren’t really aware. I myself did not allow my children and wife to share water and food with me though it was perfectly ok and safe if they did. But, somewhere down the line, differences had to come majorly because of the society. I had deep grudges against the society and I still do have in plenty. Initially, my family had to hide my HIV status in the fear of isolation and ostracism because of which there was a lot of stress and depression in my family. But it couldn’t be hidden for long from my relatives and I was not allowed to attend parties and functions at home and religious ceremonies. They would say to themselves, I got this because I was sinful. I hated it. My wife and children hated it. But things sometimes don’t really work the way they are wanted. Slowly, my neighbors and the whole colony got to know about it and they stopped visiting our house only to play safe. It is natural here, ‘coz people do not know much about the virus. They just presume it is sinful. Our family was completely ostracized for days. It was a big struggle for my wife, especially. Later, our colony president decided that I should be shifted to some NGO because my presence in the areas was looked as a source as infection to others. They gave me and my family brusque looks as though I had done some evil and was not supposed to be in that GODLY atmosphere. GODLY indeed! But my family had been a great support for me. My wife still comes often to visit me and I feel complete.
VP: Sir, did you face any problem in your job after you got this infection?
XYZ: Yes! Yes! I suffered terribly in my job. At first, there was emotional isolation and I felt helpless. My friend with whom I would chat about every damn thing in the world did not come to my office and ignored me. My colleagues would call me by name and even though I deserved at times, I was not given projects by my boss. It felt strange and awkward. Later on, I resigned from my job when it became intolerable. My boss would immediately sack me but there wasn’t any ground on which he could justify it. So it was more of my dignity abuse that made me resign from my job and made his task simpler.
VP:Sir, after all this discrimination suffered by you, do you have anything to say about the society and its people, any message to convey?
XYZ: I feel the society should be more broad minded and aware. HIV virus cannot be transferred so easily. It’s transferred only when any secretion is exchanged with a victim. So one can easily and safely converse and even have a physical contact with an HIV carrier. I and many others like me have suffered tantrums of the society. My situation is much better. There have been so many poor families where an HIV person is completely ostracized by his/her own family members. I have heard of suicide cases of HIV carrying persons. And I feel I am one of the few lucky ones. You need a lot of support from your dear ones when you are given this HIV status and completely neglected by the rest of them. At first, I had a lot of ill feelings for this society but when I heard of cases like forcefully injecting HIV carrying blood onto normal people by HIV people, I was taken aback. It is because of a few elements like them that I and many others like me feel pathetic. Doctors, nurses and hospital workers have denied treating us and it feels pathetic. Who should I go to? I feel I am just so non-required, waiting to die. It’s only because of my wife I have been able to survive. There are so many merely existing with no one by their side. I would just want to convey a message on behalf of all of us: Please accept us and do not treat us so inhumanly. We are not lesser human beings and would do no harm. Just treat us with dignity and that’s all we need. Please do not discriminate. That’s all!
VP: Sir, it’s been a pleasure to meet you and I hope this interview conveys the message that people like you want to be heard. I am so touched and delighted to have met you. Thank you so much sir for giving me your time.
XYZ: I am delighted too. Rather, I should be grateful to you for coming up to me and hearing me. I hope our voice reaches out to the people through you. Thank you. It was pleasure meeting you.