“Am divorcing u, I can't live with u anymore” said my husband, whom I married in 2004 (when I was negative and got the virus thru medical negligence – Plz refer to my first blog “Living with HIV”) who finally divorced me in 2008, and even took the custody of my only child knowing that I am unable to take care of him.
“U are HIV Poz?????”, exclaimed the HR of the company “But I thought that only prostitues and drug users get it.”
“Jo, your treatments are expensive, how can you support yourself on your meager salary? Since you are my friend, I can do my bit to help but I can't keep on helping you all the time as I have my needs too”, said a dear friend of mine, who financially helped me with medication for 4 months and then after that, never heard from him again.
“She is poz, don’t even go near her. If you talk to her or even be friends with her, the whole society will outcast you. Even your friends will abandon you…What will people say? We have a reputation to protect”, said a mother of my friend when he spoke of what good work I am doing for the community and disclosed my status to her.
“What did you say? She is HIV Positive? Don’t even bring her inside the house. Get her out from here right now, right this moment”, said a mother of another friend, and she dusted the sofa where I once sat, took the glass of water where I had sipped and threw it in the dustbin.
“My doc tells me that saliva transmit the virus thus no kissing”, said my ex bf “and Jo, he is a well–qualified doctor, who holds several degrees” ..and the lumped formed on my throat knowing that nothing I will do or say will convince him that it is NOT true. But still I educated him that the virus don’t thrive outside the body and die within few seconds after coming in contact with air. At least he listened.
“No, I don’t love you anymore. Because you lied to me. Because you hid it from me”, said my ex bf, not understanding that I had mustered all my courage to tell him coz I HAD to tell him and he should be thankful for it. “I can't marry you, Jyoti, but I will be with you the rest of your life as a friend”….And whatever dreams I had built came crashing down
While I write this, my heart is full of pains. But then I knew I had to tell my story, that could be read by millions. My painful past, which had been a lot of learning experience, my struggling present, the motivational chapter of my life that made me spring into HIV activism and my yearning for a beautiful future that I still dream, that I wanna make it into a reality…..My reason of blogging, telling my story, showing my face, fighting on to live and inspire the others has only one spark : LOVE. I want that spark to be like a raging fire. People with HIV in India face a lot of hardship, stigma and discrimination. Sometimes we are abandonned by our families/relatives, we are octracized by the society, left to fund on our own, treated like untouchables, looked upon as a person who had multiple affairs……and hence cursed! I have been thru a lot, and am willing to go thru it again. Though it hurts and breaks me down, I can “feel” that very pain in the mind and the heart of the rest of the people sailing in the same boat. I can imagine what they have gone thru and why they live in fear. Suicide rates and depression amongst people having HIV/AIDS is extremely high here and I was also one of them. Two unfailed suicide attempts and a series of depression and anxiety attacks that took me to the lowest bottom, thinking that people don’t understand me, they don’t care, and am victimised against their attitude/behavioural changes. Until one fine day, I finally woke up and smelled the coffee!!!!!!!!
IGNORANCE leads to STIGMA, thereby leading to DISCRIMINATION. One cant expect people to understand you unless you yourself can make them understand. Change begins from YOU, from “within”…and its you only who can implement the change by coming out in the open, by speaking about it, by educating the masses, by generating support. Those who are unable to come out due to the fear of the society can at least learn to accept themselves and move on rather than dwelling in self-pity and hatred. THINK positive. BE positive. TAKE a positive approach to life. Change your mind, weed out all the negative energies and build a garden in it, watering them with all positive blooms that would fragrance your soul. With that done, your everyday living will become stronger. Healthier. Beautiful.
Now when anyone tells me “U are HIV Poz? But I thought that only prostitues and drug users get it” I reply back with a pitiful smile (pitiful yes, coz of their ignorance) “Have you ever tested yourself? U too may never know. I didn’t know I was carrying the virus until my blood got tested when I was undergoing abortion” And I could hear the gasp, I could see their stunned face with wide eyes, open mouth and dropping jaw, and believe me, I ABSOLUTELY love the reactions I get! :) :)
As for “She is poz, don’t even go near her. If u talk to her or even be friends with her, the whole society will outcast u. Even ur friends will abandon u…What will people say? We have a reputation to protect”, I had replied to that lady straight on her face “ Aunty, there are thousands of people who admire our courage to speak up. And they are those people who back us up. And your son is one of them who had participated in Awareness Programme and who encouraged others to join in.” And she was glaring at her son as if wanting to know what I had just said was right and her son was facing her proudly and boldly saying “She will always be my friend”.
I even answered to my dear friend's statement “Jo, your treatments are expensive, how can you support yourself on your meagre salary? Since are my friend, I can do my bit to help but I cant keep on helping you all the time as I have my needs too”. I emailed him that I am thankful for him to help me and being with me during the worst of my times. Yes, treatments are expensive and my salary is meagre BUT money is NOT everything. PEOPLE are. The love I give to the people makes me rich with their unlimited blessings that till now I am still on medication, still living to tell my story. You also did your bit to help without my asking. Why? Coz you loved me as a friend and you did try your best till the last. Thus I really appreciate small things in life.” Though I did not meet him but I got his reply and we are still in touch once in blue moon though busy in our own lives.
And oh yes….coming to the point of a hysterical mother of my friend “What did u say? She is HIV Positive? Don’t even bring her inside the house. Get her out from here right now, right this moment,”, said a mother of another friend, and she dusted the sofa where I once sat, took the glass of water where I had sipped and threw it in the dustbin. Before leaving the house I had told her that HIV Virus is not transmissable by air/water/sharing. I reminded her that I had come to this house many times and she had served me many tea/coffee/water in crockeries that has also been used and reused for other guests. She wasn’t aware of my status then and now that she is, just throwing off one glass in the dustbin won't suffice, she should throw off all the crockeries in the kitchen if and only if she find one of the guest having contracted the same. Having said that, I could almost hear my friend giggle.
My ex bf is still with me as my best friend, he still kisses me though he has fears regarding the same. Whatever I have taught him, he still takes the second opinion from the doctors, even googling the answers from the web that are so outdated that again I have to give him an explanation with a valid meaning/reason. Our friendship has in fact deepened and I respect him as my friend and had stopped expecting a future with him. He has his own life and own space. Though I had moved on, deep in my heart, he still lingers coz he had gone thru 3 months of mental truama and agony before residing to his fate and finally decided to test himself after many months which turned out to be “negative”.
Last but not least, as for the divorce from my husband, I am blessed that it had happened coz now I realised the “purpose” of my life. This is where I belong and this is where my heart is : HIV Activism….To reach out…To give love to many people who need it and to spread the love to those seeking it. My suffering is not mine alone, it is also their suffering as they are also the part of my journey, walking thru the same winding thorny path, having many long way to go, many difficulties and hurdles to cross to finally find the path laden with bed of roses.
Thus by ending, I would say….THINK positive, BE positive, TAKE a postive approach to life. Everything happens for a reason. Don’t take life for granted but be thankful for small things. No one is in charge of your happiness except YOU. WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE…..And remember :