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Posted at: Oct 6, 2018, 12:30 AM; last updated: Oct 6, 2018, 12:30 AM (IST)

HIV victim who never gave up, joins NGO

In eight years, she rekindles new hope of life among patients living with HIV in Himachal

Rajendra Rajan

This is the success story of an HIV-infected woman, who about a decade ago faced dejection, oppression and stigma. Facing the challenge to overcome the odds in her life with courage, she rose from her deathbed like a phoenix and moulded herself into a community leader.

Hailing from a sleepy village near Palampur in Himachal, Sumita (not her real name) has emerged as a torchbearer to those languishing in the dark world of HIV and AIDS. Today, she can be seen beaming, communicating a sense of fulfilment in her life. In a span of eight years, Sumita has rekindled a new hope of life among hundreds of patients living with HIV in Himachal.

In all these years, she has acquired the status of a minor celebrity and emerged as an activist to spread awareness about AIDS.

Recently, during a couple of meetings with Sumita at her village and work place, she unfolded her story: “Quite often, people living with HIV have a tendency to hide their identity because of the taboos attached with the disease. It’s true that our society is cruel towards people who suffer from such infectious diseases. But after waging a constant struggle, I countered this myth and have no hesitation in sharing my trauma and publicly. 

“I feel happy when people take my pictures, make videos of my working and the media interacts with me. Why should I hide myself? I’ve not committed a crime. Many HIV patients are leading a reclusive life, but acceptance of your lot and fighting back are the answers to the stigma attached with the disease. 

“The perception of the society is changing fast. Just think of leprosy patients. How miserably they were treated by the society in the past. Likewise, the discrimination that was practised against the HIV victims is lessening gradually; the reason being literacy in Himachal has gone up fast. 

“By and large, the HIV patients here have started leading a normal life and they are very much a part of our social milieu. It’s true that I passed through a lot of mental agony, but I accepted the challenge and fought the social stigma at every step of my life. Had I remained under depression and shutting out from society for long, I’m sure I would have met the fate of my husband. But good sense prevailed over on me, and I thought that who would look after my two school going sons after me. This gave me courage to come out of my turmoil.  I underwent regular counselling and after a series of blood tests, I was put on regular medication and today I am leading a contented life.” 

Sumita’s mother was all praise for her daughter, “My daughter was against marrying a truck driver because fear prevails in everyone’s mind about their vulnerability. Ours was a poor and a backward society and all members in our family were illiterate. So we had no option. But my daughter fought for her right to education despite the fact that my husband was against sending her to school.   She struggled and at least could pass her matriculation examination. 

“Today, I’m satisfied that she is doing a lot of good work for the society. She has found a new role for herself in community welfare by working as a counsellor for an NGO. But I have a grudge against her in-laws, who kept us in the dark about the cause of death of her husband. Had he been taken to a hospital for tests and medication, his life could have been saved for many more years. My daughter’s husband, too, was a timid person and didn’t have the courage to inform his wife about his infection,” she said.


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