See beyond the virus

If we treat HIV/AIDS for what it is, there won’t be any problem as those suffering from the immune compromised condition will be seen as any other human being. Our readers feel we need to make people aware and that discrimination will only bring pain and nothing else

This was about four years ago when I was in Class IX. I was involved in Interact Club and we were participating in one of the programmes organised to interact and share the views about HIV/AIDS on December 1 (World AIDS Day). I never knew how it would be to be infected with AIDS and be discriminated by society, but I felt the sorrow of those living with HIV that time. There were around 40 people, children and adults with beautiful faces but sadly were victims of HIV. I felt sorry hearing their story but the truth could not be avoided. Most of the victims said that they were not accepted by their families and society. Children who were HIV-positive did not even know what it was but were coerced to live their life with the disease. Women, mostly victimised due to sexual intercourse with their infected husbands had no option than to involve in physically torturing tasks like construction of buildings and their HIV-infected children were also coerced to do the same. To help the situation, several steps have been taken but the situation is exacerbating.

The solution is at the ground level and we must identify them. Awareness should be generated through media like local radios and televisions in all villages. Skill generating trainings should be given to men and women so that they are able to live on their own. Separate schools can be established for HIV-infected children and the education about this disease should be included in the curriculum to control the spread of disease. Street dramas and plays can be performed in the villages too. Radio programme like Sathi Sanga Mankaa Kura is the most effective one

I suppose.

— Kiran Pandey, Maitdevi

In my home town Dumarwana, when I was in Class X, I heard the news about my sister Bimala Thapa. My mother was telling me that she came infected with HIV/AIDS from Kathmandu. It was a shocking moment of my life. We used to play in the same ground when we were children.

After a few days, I went to her house. I noticed her body was quite swollen. When she looked at me, she started to cry. Such a heart touching moment in my life. Those painful cries and voice still echo.

She was suffering from fever but the medicine could not work in her body and that’s why after a month she returned from Kathmandu. After some time my sister (Bimala) passed away.

— Saroj Wagle, New Baneshwor

It would be the worst feeling ever learning that I’m one of HIV-positive people. Nowadays the rate of HIV-positive people is increasing, still it wouldn’t be a pleasant time for sufferers. And in my life I have met a relative suffering from AIDS and she was in the last stage. I can still feel her say how she was suffering and how she was losing hope. She was waiting for death and all we could do was to share good times with her.

— Sangita Mijar, Nuwakot

Being HIV-positive and living with AIDS is a great challenge. More than the pain and physical suffering, the social stigma associated with the disease that leads to discrimination is antagonising. However, it must be mentioned that the care and support extended to HIV/AIDS patients in several other societies is commendable. There is actually a major difference of opinion in respect to HIV/AIDS infection between developed, developing, and under-developed countries. Its challenge is education and awareness among the public including healthcare professionals about this disease as well as the presence or absence of quality medical help and negative attitude towards HIV/AIDS patients. Poor economy, large population and lack of awareness in developing and under-developed nations are the major factors responsible for the apathy against HIV/AIDS infected people. Although the attitude has changed in recent times, much needs to be done to help such patients with compassion and care in the societies of Third World nations. Continuous

social campaigns and education of the mass is necessary for eradicating the

negative attitude towards HIV/AIDS infected individuals.

— Saikat Kumar Basu, Lethbridge, Canada

If a friend tells me he or she is infected with HIV, it’s a sign of trust. It’s important to reassure my friend that I will not break that trust by telling others. Our interest and support can help our friend feel less conscious or less embarrassed. If things seem to be too much to take for our friend, therapist or counselling may be

of help.

Life is for living. If friends know that we care about them for what they are, that can be the best thing we can do for a friend living with HIV.

— Santosh Rijal, Balkhu, Kathmandu

Unlike with other diseases, the human body cannot get rid of HIV, which means you have it for your whole life. Though I’m not HIV-positive, I know their stories. They say that living with HIV is difficult. Some people say that they even feel scared or angry whenever others treat them inhumanly in public places. As such, many of them keep their status secret. They don’t tell their family or friends because they say that there’s too much risk.

Listening to their stories, I understand that living with HIV has many challenges and it may take some time to accept them with a positive attitude. There are a lot of misconceptions about this but we can cope with the problem with the right treatment and support to HIV infected. We only need to provide enough love,

care and emotional support for their healthy living.

— Anurag Paudel, Balkot, Bhaktapur

Any disease is taken as a curse by people especially if it’s related to HIV/AIDS. This is due to people’s misunderstanding of how it can be transferred. I have heard many incidents — they are sent away from office, school and from society. Even family are cruel towards them. Our country is a developing country, even today HIV-positive people are leading a miserable life. The only solution to this problem is that we have to take the disease in a positive way by helping them in their work as well as supporting them. Another solution is that the media is giving various awareness programmes regarding HIV/AIDS and many people today have understood about HIV.

— Sonika Lamichhane

If anyone suffers from any disease, should s/he be considered as criminals? No. Then, why should the one suffering from HIV/AIDS hide his/her face? There are several reasons one can be a victim of HIV. I have never met any person who is suffering from HIV or maybe I did not know about his/her status. It’s just one kind of a deadly disease. But we should not discriminate any human being if s/he suffers from HIV because he/she is one of us. The person needs lot of care and love and we should always support to let the person move forward.

— Abhinay Jayaswal, Baneshwor, Kathmandu

To be honest, I haven’t had an opportunity to meet a person who is HIV-positive. However, I still remember the day when I was studying in Class VIII. One of my seniors told me that a man had come to our school whose main purpose to visit the place was to raise awareness about this disease so that everyone would be able to know everything about AIDS. To my surprise, I haven’t gotten a single chance to come across the person even in my dream and imagination. Still I think sometimes about him. I really don’t know what was the cause behind him getting infected by such an incurable disease. But what I can say is he got infected by the most serious disease in the history of mankind. If a time comes when I suffer this deadly disease, I will fight it.

— Pratik Shrestha, Buddhanagar, Baneshwor

It is quite challenging to live or survive in a community where a person has HIV/AIDS. The most common hardship they face is discrimination and the feeling of exclusion despite fundamental rights of protection against discrimination in terms if gender, ethnicity, or HIV status. The major contributing factor of this is stigma and fear associated with the illness. Therefore, people living with HIV/AIDS often struggle with social, economic and political challenges. Furthermore, they are more likely of have mental illness such as depression, substance abuse, and homelessness. These problems are very significant in developing countries.

Firstly, the most important aspect to prevent these consequences is to mitigate the stigma or stereotype belief among the people in communities and acknowledge about HIV/AIDS, because this is only the way people with HIV/AIDS can get

appropriate support. Secondly, the families and communities should support them by facilitating and improving access to treatment. In addition to that the government and NGOs should also support them by providing the opportunities for networking among people living with HIV and AIDS, and encourage them to cope with HIV and AIDS so that they can build a quality life.

— Parash Shrestha, Sydney, NSW

“I have AIDS but it is not an advertisement for me for more love. I just want to live a normal life.” These are vile words I heard from my pal. Since our school days, we all have been studying about AIDS. Thanks to various INGOs/NGOs for spreading the knowledge in rural parts of the country. But still if we meet AIDS infected person, somewhere in our heart there is a strange feeling. People may express disgust or become over protective towards them. All the awareness programmes are helping to decrease the ‘disgust feeling’ but we know it is little things that matter the most. Many people begin to interfere in there life. So,we should think about helping them live a normal life.

— Shekhar Koirala, Shorahkhutte, Kathmandu

Beside the pain and suffering, which he’s physically going through and difficulties of getting medical help, what hurts the most is the psychological pain he gains from a number of ways. Hearing someone suffer from common cold won’t be as frightening as opposed to hear someone say s/he is HIV-positive. We should be able to consider HIV/AIDS as a disease first then a challenging task begins for medical science that will start with the cure. Most problems would be solved if HIV/AIDS is accepted nothing more than just a health condition.

— Roman

Having known that you get a few years to live in this beautiful world will obviously make people distressed. I’ve never encountered anyone with HIV/AIDS, but based on the reading, I can get the vibe on how someone is leading their life filled with desolation. Time has changed, unlike in the past; Homo sapiens are treating their counterparts in a friendly manner and understand that HIV/AIDS is not transmitted by non sexual contact. In general, people’s perspective has gradually been changing so the level of discrimination has gone down to some extent. After learning that a person is infected with HIV/AIDS, one needs rest, can engage in activity to prolong their lifestyle with early treatment along with physical exercises. And ultimately to be involved in activities for the well-being of humanity which can make them satisfied and content.

— Anonymous

Although the outlook of HIV/AIDS suffering people is looking good, but when we dig deeper we find that the thought process and attitude of HIV/AIDS patients is so weak and negative that they cannot bring out their talent. They are not focused on their interest so they can’t live a better life. They are not living their life happily as they pretend to be. They are suffering from negative thinking, which causes inner death.

We can find practical solution for these problems. We should work on a spiritual level to motivate them from inside so their talent comes forth. We can give love and make them happy. We should create awareness programmes and motivation programmes to make them better human beings.

— Saif Ali

I got a chance to meet two people who have been going through this difficult situation. Our school held an interaction programme on request so that we would know more about HIV/AIDS. Through that programme I came to know how hard it is to live a life with this immune compromised condition. Yes, it is true that there has been a tremendous change

in outlook of people for HIV/AIDS sufferers which has made them live like a normal person. “It’s very hard to live with a bitter truth that ‘I’m living with this disease. I lost hope to live when I knew I have HIV/AIDS but with the positive response and special care and attention I was able to overcome feeling dreadful.” We should be aware about its causes and preventions to avoid the infection and if there is someone who is suffering from this problem you should give him special care and make him feel like a normal person.

— Anonymous

On World AIDS Day after the fund raising event, we donated some amount to an organisation that looks after children born with HIV. There are around 25 children. We spent that day with them. We planned the schedule so as to have fun playing games with the children.

After the game session, we heard their stories. We often say as we sow, so shall we reap, but this was not relevant in their life. How was suffering from HIV their fault? How can a mother after giving birth leave her child helplessly? They are suffering with no fault of theirs. Their life becomes more threatening due to the discriminatory act they have to face in hospitals and society. But they continue their studies despite their difficulties.

There are many people who are being the victim without their fault. There are people who are in need of our help. There are places where our small contribution can have greater impact. It was worth visiting the organisation. The smile that we were able to bring was priceless. And the satisfaction that we got is much more valuable than anything else.

— Benju KC