Today I was invited to be with some of the 'Positive' people in my district.I am referring to a meeting organised by the local Network of HIV positive persons.
When I reached there, the meeting had already begun. It was held in a Hall in a house which also houses the office of the network. There were around 50 adults, women almost equalling men. Around 10 kids were also there playing in the next room.Most women were sitting on the floor while men had chairs and few benches to sit. Most of them were poor, some may be in lower middle class. Most are Hindus, some Muslims and a few Christians. They include Manual labourers, Drivers, House wives, Sex workers and many are currently unemployed. The only thing common about them was that they were all 'positive' persons.
Today was their monthly meeting day. They come here to discuss their health, about Stigma and discrimination they face, about the difficulties they face in getting employment and sending their kids to school, and about the ways to get more benefits from the Government etc.
When I came in their faces lit up. I know many of them. I am a regular visitor there. I usually take Health classes for them. I give them hope and so they like me.
Today also I stressed the importance of taking medicines regularly in the correct dosage at the correct time. I told them not to worry about side-effects of medicines. It can be managed. I told them the importance of healthy food and asked them to abstain from tobacco and alcohol.
They listened intently and in the end when I asked if they have any questions, many stood up but they were not asking questions. They wanted to consult me. They wanted solutions for their personal health problems, not a health lecture. Such lectures they are hearing regularly.
I saw some of them. A 10 year old kid taking ART [ anti retro viral therapy] had Scabies. A 45- year- old man's cough was persisting even after completing anti tuberculous therapy. Many had general medical complaints not related to their 'positive' status. They were not keen on relieving their status to other doctors. They also complained that when they reveal their 'positive' status, many doctors ask them to get treatment from the ART Centre [which is 2 hours away]itself.
I did not had time to see all of them as I had planned only a class. The organisers were embarrassed.They started shooing away those crowding around me. I went promising to come again to them another day.
The Government and many NGOs are helping them.Even then their plight is miserable. It is a big fight for them every day to keep their body and soul in good spirits.I try to do my bit by being positive with 'Positives'.