'HIV+ gave me to thoughts to end life, love for my children gave me grit to fight'
On the occasion of World AIDS Day 2021, two women share their life's journey in fighting against all odds to overcome the deadly disease of HIV. Hinaben Modi and Alka (name changed) share their stories of fighting not only the stigma, but also seeking a better future for themselves.
After contracting HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) from her husband, Hinaben Modi, hailing from Gujarat's Vadnagar wanted to end her life, but the love for her small children gave her the determination to fight it out and live a challenging and fulfilled life, inspiring others.
There are around 74,000 such HIV positive persons in Gujarat, fighting against all odds, even in the times of Covid-19.
Hinaben hails from Vadnagar, the same hometown as Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Staying true to the Vadnagar spirit, she has continued to fight against all challenges. In 2006, she was detected as HIV positive, having contracted it from her husband.
"At that time when I came to know about this, I just wanted to end my life, I just thought that everything was finished and there's nothing for me to live on. The temptations to carry out this extreme step became stronger when I lost my husband to the ailment after a few months, but the love for my two children, both of whom were HIV negative, forced me to live on," she said.
Hinaben's husband was a diamond worker in Vadnagar, but due to his ailing condition, she was forced to do house chores in other people's homes.
"After it was revealed that I was HIV positive, people started reacting strangely, although they didn't outright reject me or stop my work, but I felt it. I was determined to not only fight it out but also reveal my status to others. I never wanted to hide that I was HIV positive," she told IANS.
Soon she diverted her attention towards starting her own cottage industry of manufacturing pheny, bleach and other cleansing liquids to make ends meet and raise her two children. Over the years, she has successfully done that, giving both the children a good life with good education.
Today her daughter has completed her graduation and got a job in a civil hospital and her son is doing MCom. She's a proud mother and inspires others to live a full fledged life.
"You cannot undo what fate did to me, but you just cannot resign... You have to fight it out," says Hinaben.
She participates in most of the AIDS and HIV awareness programmes carried out by the district Gujarat State Network of People living with AIDS/HIV (GSNP+).
"I am not afraid of anything and as I have not done anything wrong, I don't feel ashamed or shy of telling people that I am HIV positive. I want to tell people, what happened with me, may God not let it happen to others," she says.
Similar to Hinaben, Alka (name changed), too, felt her life shattered when she was diagnosed with HIV positive in 2011.
"For some time I hid it from my mother-in-law, though my husband and father-in-law knew. But eventually, she also came to know and that was the end. I came back to my paternal home and got divorced," she said.
Alka then started working with the GSNP+ organisation and since then has been associated with it. But her life has also been at odds as through this work she came in contact with another HIV positive and married him. But that bonding also didn't last long as the man turned out to be addicted to narcotics and drugs.
"Life has ups and downs, but we have to fight. We cannot just go on crying alone in a corner and blame destiny," she added.
Like Hinaben and Alka, there are around 74,000 HIV positive persons in Gujarat, who are fighting against not only their physical condition, but also against the society.
"Because of this stigma, we believe that there might be around 20,000 more HIV positive infected people in the state who require medical treatment and care. We are trying to create awareness and bring in equality among the society, but it is hard," said Daxaben Patel, the GSNP+ Secretary.
According to sources, India has the third largest HIV epidemic in the world. In 2017, HIV prevalence among the age group of 15-49 years was an estimated 0.2 per cent. Even though this figure might seem to be small compared to most other middle-income countries, because of the huge population of 1.3 billion people, this equates to 2.1 million people living with HIV.
Nearly 80 per cent of people living with HIV are aware of their status and most of them are on antiretroviral treatment (ART). The proportion of people on ART, who are virally suppressed is not reported. India's HIV epidemic is driven by sexual transmission.
According to reports, there were 5,000 deaths of people living with HIV in the past decade due to the virus in Gujarat.