Manisha - Mumbai, India
The truth is the truth. I tell everyone that I am HIV-positive, especially those who are close to me. “If you want to be with me, that’s fine. If not, you can happily leave. It is not a problem for me.”
Around two months after my marriage, I started suffering from a sexually transmitted infection. Then I got pregnant. I had a blood test done when I was in my seventh or eighth month of pregnancy and found out I was HIV-positive. At the same time, my husband became seriously ill, and the doctors said he too was HIV-positive. I believe I contracted HIV from him, but I cannot say how this happened. I tried to ask my husband about it, but I did not pursue it because he was very sick and greatly troubled.
During the time of the Ganapati Festival, my baby son died. My husband was more distressed than I was by the loss of our child, and because of this stress his health worsened. He died barely a month later.
I asked my in-laws for help and they kicked me to the curb, as if I were a beggar. I felt like a drowning person clutching at straws. I was so stigmatized that I could not even kill myself.
Those with HIV are not lesser than anyone else. We can live and work. We must eat and drink. We have the same rights as anyone else. This is important because I believe that there is too much discrimination towards people with HIV among those who do not have the correct information. Those who are aware about this virus do not discriminate.
Now I live my life in a carefree manner. I am completely fine. I am able to earn, to feed myself, and to stand on my own two feet. Sometimes when I feel I am losing my courage, I take advice from my elders so that I may regain my strength.
Going forward, people must raise their hands and voices. They should not be held back by fear and oppression. And they should not believe that we have HIV because we have committed a sin. Everyone who finds out they are HIV-positive should immediately start getting medical treatment and take their medicine regularly.