I have often pushed the Mantra of Charity as something to be approached in a sensible way.
Do what you can and what needs to be done. If you cannot pay or have the skills to help then you can still spread the word. You can get others to donate and or volunteer.
The story of HIV in India is an incredibly tragic one with the stigma being so strong that HIV+ people often don’t tell their loved ones that they are sick.
And this causes more tragedies. For many HIV is a death sentence, but the creation of ARVs mean that HIV and AIDS are treated as Chronic Diseases now, like Diabetes or Hypertension. With ARVs one can live decades and hold down a normal life.
And part of that normalcy is love and companionship.
How do you help the HIV+ if you aren’t a doctor or a medic? Anil Sathiv came up with an answer. He recognised that the HIV+ are alone and despite their condition, many are still ostracised from their loved ones.
Anil was horrified when he heard that doctors often had their hands tied by patient confidentiality. A patient who was HIV + would not tell their loved ones and continue to have sex. Because in India “cheating” on your spouse “doesn’t” happen. That’s only a problem in the decadent UK or USA.
So he did something to help HIV+ meet each other. He opened up a matrimonial site (Indians often rely on websites to find partners in an increasingly cut-throat world of marriage. Don’t laugh, Indian marriages have lower divorce rates and higher stability thanks to the more rational approach. This isn’t like a date and more like a jigsaw puzzle).
Despite his demanding job in the transport department, he makes time to help those rendered lonely by the dreaded infection to find support and companionship. During an earlier stint in Latur town, Mr Valiv started HIV tests for truck drivers, among those most at risk from HIV-AIDS.
Mr Valiv had also seen a close friend, who had contracted the virus in the early 1990s, waste away in pain, suffering and isolation and this drove him to make this amazing site.
“He was shunned by his own family. I cannot forget the longing in his eyes for a family and children. Such is the stigma attached to the infection that when he died in 2006, his father refused to light his pyre at his sparsely attended funeral.”
In Hinduism either you light the pyre for your children or they do it for you. To do so is to damn your loved one, to say before the gods that your kid has done nothing of value. Such is the stigma of HIV.
HIV positive people are ostracised and treated inhumanely but consider this. If their needs are unmet then HIV+ people will simply pretend to not have HIV and can end up spreading the disease.
Many stories are coming out of the site are amazingly positive such as that of Lata, a healthcare worker who contracted HIV from her job. Left to care for one son by her irate husband she found another with whom she had another son who is HIV negative. Lata claims that Anil’s work made her life worth living again.
Or the story of Ramesh who contracted his disease in the early days of Indian HIV from his wife. Prepared to die like her, he ceased his medication but after meeting with Anil he found love and is currently healthy and alive living with his second wife.
Or Nisha who was abandoned by the man who gave her HIV with her son and who nearly killed herself and her son due to the shame and the pain. She found someone to love and raise her son with.
There are hundreds of stories, of little things done to make the lives of the HIV+ a bet sweeter. As the popularity of his website has increased, friends, well-wishers and organisations devoted to similar causes have offered help.
And I quote the man when I say this
“HIV, should not come in the way of one’s dreams.”
Yesterday was world HIV day, it is estimated that so far 35 Million people have died due to this disease and more will soon. But the time frame of the disease has changed. And it will keep changing till we beat it.