3 stories of brave souls who have fought AIDS and emerged even stronger!
People suffering from AIDS do not need your judgement…they need your support. And these stories show how much of a difference support can make!
“In 2008, my friend and I were distributing gifts to patients in a hospital. I stumbled into the children’s ward and saw a 4-year-old and his mother lying beside him. She said, ‘I have AIDS and so does Aniket.’ My heart broke; the boy looked lifeless. The doctor added, ‘His father passed away because of AIDS too. Aniket has about a week to live.’
I couldn’t bear the thought of him suffering. So I visited Aniket regularly; my friends and I would read and laugh with him. Unfortunately, 6 months later, his mother expired. No one from their family showed up. ‘Why isn’t she waking up?’ he cried and asked. I told him, ‘She’s left you in my care, you’ll be okay.’
I started looking for orphanages, but they all refused to accept a child with AIDS. I went to the District Commissioner and filed complaints. After that, one of the orphanages agreed to shelter him. But 2 weeks later, Aniket was back in the hospital. He told me, ‘The warden told the children I have a disease and I shouldn’t be touched.’
I couldn’t see him suffer; I got permission to take him home for a few days. My brother said, ‘Why are you bringing other people’s problems into our home?’ Mom intervened–‘If this was your child, would you abandon him?’ Aniket came to us depressed and sickly. But with home cooked food, medication and a lot of love, we revived him. Aniket got better when he wasn’t treated indifferently.
When the time came to send him back, my brother said, ‘He’s our son now. He can’t go.’ We hugged and cried; it was overwhelming.
I rushed to inquire how to legally adopt him. I was informed–‘No child with AIDS has ever been adopted. We need permission from the head office’. I visited the office for 6 months everyday, but my request wasn’t taken up! Finally, a reporter published my story. The publicity made the head office accept my request to adopt Aniket! I was ecstatic!
I also felt a sense of responsibility like never before; I wanted to give my child the best. We clicked pictures as a family and it was then that Aniket called me ‘Dad’. He’d always call me ‘Bhaiya’ before. I just said, ‘I love you, son.’
Adopting Aniket changed my life! I became a strict parent when it came to his studies, but a carefree one when we’d play football and cricket together. He loves to paint; seeing him paint a picture of the two of us makes my day.
This one time, he fell sick and started shouting– 'I want to die. I hate my disease.' I consoled him–'Life is unpredictable. I could go before you too. But it's what we make of our years that counts.' Since that day, I’ve never heard him complain; now, he teaches me to enjoy every moment of my life. And he’s a big boy today–16 and preparing for his boards! Can you see what love can do? From having a week to live, this is where my son is now, and I’m so proud to be his dad!”
“I think I’m living proof of the fact that life can change within a minute. In 2002, I was pregnant with my second child & was getting a ‘routine’ HIV test done. I was negatively tested with my first son so there was little to worry; or so I thought.
I still remember my counsellor at mothers2mothers telling me I was actually HIV positive. I couldn’t believe it. I had so many questions — ‘would my baby be HIV + as well?’, ‘was I going to die?’ I had a lot of anxiety because in 2002, having HIV meant that you were stigmatized to the point of no hope.
But, then, my counsellor gave me what I needed most — hope. She told me I was going to live a healthy life with my child, who I wouldn’t pass this onto. And when I delivered a healthy baby girl who tested negative at 18 months, I knew I had found my purpose.
I became a mentor who counselled girls who’d lost ‘hope’ because of this stigma. I remember a teenager who tested positively. She was fighting alone because she was afraid of telling her family. I knew she needed support, so after days of counselling, I told her that together we would break the news to her mom.
At her home, she gathered her mom & 4 sisters and said, ‘I want to tell you something — I’m HIV+, but I’m determined to come out of it & I can do that with your support.’ Her mom broke down, hugged her & said that she was going to be her backbone, but what was shocking was that EACH of her sisters said that they were HIV + as well! Can you believe it? They were so afraid of the stigma that they’d rather suffer than seek treatment!
So through my biggest despair I found my greatest purpose — to break the stigma around HIV. My daughter & I travelled the world to spread our message & save more girls. She’s growing up fast & she’s really smart too — she wants to have a career in media & T.V, while I hope to run my own business. That’s the beauty of life — it teaches you that despite all odds, we can overcome, we can hope, we can dream & most importantly…we can live.”
“We were classmates in college, but we always ignored each other. She thought I was arrogant and rude and I just never paid any attention to her. But things changed when we went on a class trip. We ended up spending so much time together that the inevitable happened; we fell head over heels in love and started dating.
We used to spend so much together! We’d go on dates everyday; movies, coffee, ice creams, milkshakes, everything -- we did it all! The whole world faded away and we were just happy to be in each other’s company. That was enough for us…. Until one phone call, turned it all upside down.
I was going about my day as usual when she called -- she was so disturbed and couldn’t stop crying. She’d been to the hospital for a routine checkup and her test results said she was HIV positive. The minute those words came out of her mouth, my body went still with shock -- I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to cry so badly, but I had to be strong for her.
I left everything and rushed to where she was. I had to be there; to hold her and tell her that it was going to be okay. When we met, we both broke down. She kept cursing herself and kept asking, ‘What have I ever done to deserve this?’ I tried consoling her. I tried to tell her that this doesn’t change anything and god willing, she’d still have the best possible life! I reminded her of her dreams, to change the world, to travel and just explore! I told her that now wasn’t the time to give up.
But dealing with this situation meant facing a new challenge every day. She could only confide in her brother, because telling her parents would probably be the end of her. Her brother supported her and advised her to just continue with her treatments. He decided that only if it becomes worse, would the parents be involved.
She told some of her friends, but not all of them were accepting. I remember there was a roommate in her hostel -- they were like sisters. When she confided in her friend about her disease, she just stopped talking to her. The same night, her roommate packed her bags and asked the warden to change her room. All I wanted to do at this point was to scream and tell everyone that she needs love, not abandonment.
It wasn’t easy coming to terms with this new reality -- I was, and am still scared for her, but I know I can’t imagine my life without her. I want to do everything I can to make her feel better. I don’t really know what the future holds for us, but I know that I want to be by her side, and take her through life, come what may. She’s my everything -- there’s no way I’ll ever leave her alone.”
Being India’s biggest storytelling platform, Humans of Bombay is all about bringing you extraordinary stories of ordinary people. Today, on World AIDS Day, we bring you these stories to remind you that instead of stigmatising people with AIDS, supporting them can be so much more powerful! If you’d like to read more such stories, check out our book and dive into the diverse tales of a country with a billion beating hearts!