Nagpur: The stigma associated with HIV/AIDS appears to blurring out, as people are now opening up to share their experiences about coping up with condition, which was otherwise associated with depression and fear of losing life. Two such HIV survivors have stepped up to talk about this condition of body, and give out the message loud and clear – live can also be worth living even with AIDS.
Talking to Nagpur Today, HIV Survivor Sawanth (name changed), 47 said that he was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1994. He was then a student pursuing his graduation in Commerce. He was a good student and supposedly very popular with the students and teachers of the college. While answering to a question on how he got infected, he answered after a lot of cajoling that he had intimate relationship with a call-girl since he was in his adolescence and wanted to experiment with sex. He did not know then that the call-girl was afflicted with AIDS.
He said that the moment he received the blood-test report, the laboratory personnel had looked at him as if he is an alien or a worthless being not fit to live in this world. When he browsed through the report, he got a shock of his life. His crest-fallen face and low demeanour urged his friends to probe into the cause of his sadness and he blurted out the results of the blood test. His close friends suggested that he go for the same test again from a different laboratory since there could be some error in the diagnosis or the diagnostic test. So Sawanth repeated the same test from a different laboratory. To his horror, the test results were the same as before.
The fear of ignominy, embarrassment and disgrace led him to attempt suicide. He had severed the blood veins of his wrist and was bleeding. Fortunately, his elder sister found him bleeding and she called for help and was rushed to a nearby doctor who sutured the severed veins and treated him. On the insistence of the doctors and his parents and the fear that the doctor instilled in him of a penal action since this was a medico-legal-case and he was obligated to tell the police, he had to reveal the cause for him taking the extreme step.
He somehow came to know of Sarathi Trust which was working towards creating awareness about the HIV/AIDS among sexual minorities like Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders (LGBT). The Chairman of Sarathi Trust Anand Chandrani counseled him and informed him about the Anti-Retroviral-Therapy. He told him about how he can live a healthy life by taking the medications regularly. He then spoke of how he should abstain from imbibing alcohol and smoking and instead do exercises, eating proper food and sleeping properly etc. This counseling worked.
And then Life Smiled Again..
After graduation, Sawanth joined Sarathi Trust and worked for them as Management and Evaluation (M&E) Officer. He used to get a decent salary for a fresher and was adhering to the medications etc. He then started to counsel other youngsters who were planning or had attempted to commit suicide.
Today, Swanth has migrated from Nagpur to Amravati and is running his own NGO which is working for creating awareness about HIV/AIDS among members of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders (LGBT) community there.
Man from US finds city connect!
Nagpur Today spoke to another person living with HIV. We present here his way of life in his own words :
My name is Jerry and I am living with HIV. I am from the United States and have been serving people living with HIV/AIDS in Nagpur full time for more than one year. Prior, I served here in Nagpur part time since my diagnosis in 2004, which in turn founded a small NGO called Hughes Foundation, which serves thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS through medication assistance, counseling, food guidance, HIV Prevention Education and more.
The main focus of HF is using my positive example and positive HIV status as a way to SHOW people in Nagpur, and around the world, that HIV/AIDS is NOT a death sentence. One can live a long normal and healthy life with HIV/AIDS.
I believe one main reason people often succumb to death is because of fear and lack of knowledge about people living with HIV/AIDS and also the people are living with HIV/AIDS themselves not understand how to manage the disease.
I have lived a long normal life since 2004 – I am currently 42 years old and I am hopeful for a cure for HIV/AIDS, but until then I have plans to live a long full time well over 80! You might ask how?
Follow these tips and Live life to its full with HIV/AIDS
1. Remove the fear: Fear paralyzes you. You have to take power over this disease and not let it take power over you. The more you know the more power you have and the less fear you will show up.
2. Educate yourself on your health: If you are living with HIV/AIDS, know your CD4 count, know your blood pressure, and understand ALL of the medication that you are taking and the side effects. One problem that many people do is they just take “that red pill” or “that blue pill” and don’t ask the Dr questions about what is being put into your body. So ask questions about what each pill does and how the body reacts to that pill.
3. Adhere to any HIV/AIDS medications: Many people think that if I miss a dose of my medication or they don’t like how the medications make them feel, that they just stop. Do not stop taking your medications. If there are side effects that you don’t like, they typically go away within 2-4 weeks of taking the medications but you also need to feel comfortable enough asking your Dr. about all of your options.
4. Surround Yourself with Friends: You choose who you want to tell about your HIV status – there is no rule anywhere that says you have to share with your extended family or friends….you do need to share your status with anyone you might have a sexual relationship with to protect the spread of HIV. But, the point is, if you are living with HIV there are many others around you who are also living with HIV – attend an HIV NGO meeting or share your situation with someone you really trust. You are not alone. Surround yourself with others – even if one other person, who you can share with.
5. Maintain a healthy lifestyle: All of us, with or without HIV/AIDS, need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This is especially true for people living with HIV/AIDS. Stop smoking if you smoke and limit any alcohol use.
Exercise: Get outside and walk for 20 minutes a day or more. Move your body! Eat healthy. Fruits and vegetables are great. Protein is great too, which can be found in nuts for those who are vegetarians and chicken for those who are non-veg.
6. Get regular Doctor’s Check-ups: It is important for anyone living with HIV/AIDS to see a Dr at least every 6 months, maybe more depending on your situation. Follow your CD4 count; find out how your heart, liver, kidneys and your body are doing. Life is a gift – none of us know the age we will live to see. It is important that all of us, with our without HIV/AIDS, see life as a gift and treat it that way. Treat others with respect, love and grace – just how we would want to be treated. And above else, be kind and gentle to yourself.
As told to Samuel Gunasekharan