We are born with innate desire to be valued. We don’t know why but it makes us happy when someone notices us. It gives us a sense of validation. In our everyday life, we may see a person every single day but not know anything about him or her. It happens in the workplace, neighbourhood or the market place that we frequent. Some people’s presence don’t seem to matter although they are very much present.
When we exclude and ignore an entire section of the society we live in, it then becomes a social issue and a case of discrimination.
There could be many reasons why we are oblivious to some people. It could be because we are so into ourselves that there is no room for thoughts of others or it could be that we dismiss some people as inconsequential. Also, as we grow up, the existing prejudices in the society rub on us and we tend to ignore some people habitually. Whatever may be the reasons, rejection hurts us all equally.
Facing rejection in every step of the way are people living with HIV. There is so much of secrecy and stigma around HIV that they don’t have a voice and respectful place in our society. It begins with, Iski toh life khatam ho gayee – his/her life is over now, an expression mixed with pity and denunciation. They are not only dismissed but also judged as beings with lesser or no moral values.
HIV orphans, HIV widows, transgenders, commercial sex workers, truck drivers, children born with HIV, men and women living with HIV – all lives matter. There are 2.1 million people living with HIV in India whose lives matter. I believe that no one’s life is over until it is really over. Every person has a right to survive, thrive and live life with dignity.
When I support End AIDS India I support the programmes run by five trusted NGOs in India. In June 2017 alone, 14,434 people living with HIV were newly registered in the Care and Support Centre where they are connected with services that include counselling, support in accessing treatment, and obtaining important IDs and documents. In addition, 12,477 HIV survivors were connected to various social welfare schemes and entitlements.
The pan-India programme reports about 1200+ deaths of people living with HIV every month. It just goes on to demonstrate the amount of work still left to do. We need as much support as possible to create a solid support system, so people living with HIV are able to overcome the physical, economic and emotional challenges that come with having HIV.
Let’s open our eyes, open our hearts, and recognise the presence of those 2.1 million people living with HIV. Let’s do something to make their lives matter. Join hands with End AIDS India campaign to give them equal opportunity to live healthy and fulfilling lives.
Written by: Tara Rana/ End AIDS India