Widowed mothers affected by HIV find friendship
Gayatri has two children, aged 7 and 5. Her husband, a lorry driver, died of AIDS and left her to bring up her children alone. Gayatri, is HIV positive. She lives next to her parents home in a little shack but receives no financial support from them so she earns her living making and selling sweets.
Gayatri is a member of the Theni People Living with HIV Network in the state of Tamil Nadu, south India which is supported by Alliance India. Her positive attitude makes her an ideal person to lead support sessions for other people living with HIV and encourage them to take charge of their lives.
Thanks to the support of an outreach worker from one of Alliance India’s partners, MMSSS, Gayatri was encouraged to meet another widow, Malini, who lives close by. Together they visited the hospital, applied for a widow’s pension and each secured a sewing machine from a government project.
The two women are great friends, sharing their concerns and providing support to one another. This friendship is not only benefiting them but also their children by providing a safe and happy atmosphere for them to grow up in.
Radha is 14 years old. She is already caring for her 11-year-old brother Suresh who is living with HIV and her sister Arpana who is 9.
The children had lived with their grandmother for a couple of years after their parents died but when she also passed away, the children were left, unable to find food and suffering from stigma and discrimination by their neighbours.
The little family was falling apart. An outreach worker, supported by Alliance India, worked with the community to increase their understanding and knowledge of HIV, and the families to get support and acceptance for Radha’s family.
The neighbours now not only invite the children to their home but they also see it as their responsibility to support the household. One neighbour explained to an outreach worker that she should not worry about the family as she would also support them when in need.
HIV positive injecting drug users
Ahoi was a drug user for 15 years before she was treated. She says: “If I hadn’t met with the staff of the female injecting drug user programme, I would have died a long time ago.”
Ahoi who had been very ill, had heard about the female injecting drug user programme in Imphal, Manipur, India while she was in drug rehabilitation.
She received treatment and started taking antiretroviral therapy. But while still on antiretroviral therapy (ART) she relapsed into using heroin. This time her elder sister took her to the drop in centre in Imphal where she received counselling and oral substitution therapy for her addiction.
As her health and behaviour improved and she began to take her ART regularly she became a peer educator for the female injecting drug user programme. She has since been fully involved in providing services to her community.
“Before I was on drugs, there was no happiness in my life. I felt like dying. But now I am free of drugs, though I am HIV positive I can live a normal life taking my medicine properly. Now I can be with God. Now I am able to help others like me,” she says.
neighbours now see it as their responsibility to support the children