Making a difference: I am Positive
Making A Difference: I Am Positive. It was not an easy life for Jyothi, her first marriage ended in a divorce, but not before she was made to go through three abortions and due to medical negligence, she was infected with HIV and was abandoned by her husband.
It was not an easy life for Jyothi, her first marriage ended in a divorce, but not before she was made to go through three abortions and due to medical negligence, she was infected with HIV and was abandoned by her husband. A chat with her reveals her travails and how she overcame them to lead a life of her choice. She says, “For whatever that has happened in my life – there is no point to preoccupy myself with the question “Why”, but rather ponder to “Where” because I strongly believe that God is leading me to somewhere beautiful, beyond these harsh realities of life.”
What was the reason you had to go through three abortions and how were you infected?
My “ex” husband never liked using the contraception (condoms) and oral contraceptive never worked on my body. And whenever I ended up pregnant, he would force me to go through an abortion. It was his choice and I had to bear through the pain of the entire process. I was pregnant for the fourth time, when I realised that during one of the hospital visits I got infected with HIV. And I could not even sue the hospital as I had no proof.
What has been your hardest struggle so far?
I gave birth to a baby boy. Initially my husband supported me, but later the burden of it may have taken its toll and he divorced me and took away my baby too. I don’t know what destroyed our marriage. Was it the HIV? Was it the lack of counselling? Was it my post-partum depression? Or was it because I was no longer good for him as a wife anymore? I was emotionally and mentally destroyed. More than home, my baby boy was snatched away from me. I had given life to this baby only to be taken away by someone who had taken away the lives of the three other unborn fetuses. I pleaded with a small time politician for help; pleaded with the police; pleaded with a lawyer for help and even filed a case, only to be able to see my baby. But all these please only fell on deaf ears. That’s when I decided that HIV will not kill me. And secondly, no man will disrespect a woman this way – robbing her of home and baby, throwing her on the streets and leave her helpless to marry someone else. What doesn’t kill me only made me stronger. And the pain only made me bolder. And now that I am living, it is not for myself – and certainly not for my baby (though that is a small part of achieving my dream) – but I am living ‘For the people living with HIV’! I am their voice. I work for the change to stop stigma and discrimination and to make the world a better place to live in.
How did life change after you were diagnosed positive?
To come out of the closet and make people accept me as I am was the most difficult part. I was already a divorced lady then and to top it, I was working for an IT firm, drawing nice remuneration. I was hoping to get married again, but was turned down many times when I revealed I am HIV positive, albeit politely. Some even would look at me “suspiciously” wondering how I got HIV. Hence, I had to explain that anyone can get infected and it is not necessarily transferred through sexual encounters. So HIV should no more be a taboo subject. It is worse when people call me “See that’s the AIDS girl”, that’s when I had to correct them – the difference between HIV and AIDS and that if I have HIV, it is not necessary that I will have AIDS. And yes, I also had to make it clear that a person living with HIV can marry, can have babies, and can live a normal life.
Did you face any discrimination?
I was lucky that I was never discriminated at workplace, probably because of the way I educated people regarding HIV. Unfortunately, I faced a lot of stigma outside - with friends, at the dentists and hospitals too. Friends, who I thought would be forever and would never leave my side – the moment I let out my deepest darkest secret, I was surprised at how many of them disappeared. Hospitals “label” HIV patients and that needs to be stopped. Such discrimination is wrong. And that’s where the activists are drafting a law, (HIV/AIDS Bill), which has already been passed by the Supreme Court but is yet to be passed by the Parliament.
How do you define yourself and what goes into Jyothi’s day?
I am positive, just like my blood I always take my life positively. I stay far away from negativities as they affect me, deeply, but cannot do so at work. I handle suicide related cases, and in doing so I have to handle care and negotiate and it leaves me exhausted and drained in the end. I am very much of a “giver” and caring person… and spiritual too. I believe in humanity. I try to transform the society by leading through examples –by showing my face and telling my own stories as well as of others that I come across – rather than teaching through text book. I post my own pictures and post my everyday’s life as a person living with HIV – to break the myth that HIV person is very thin, sick and dying! Also, my marriage with HIV negative person was the best thing that has ever happened to me – the most common HIV myth to be ever broken! This helps me to change society’s mindset on how they see HIV – not as a “sexual disease” but as an illness that can be kept under control with medication.
Tell us about how you met your husband and your new beginning!
I met Surve through Yahoo chat… He was there with me when my father died. I was closest to my dad, being my father’s first born. My father’s last rites were done in Hyderabad and I was only informed later. I was very upset with my family and had no one to turn to except Surve. I poured my heart out to him and one thing led to the other and I got married to him. It was a new beginning. I was also learning to accept myself. Once you start to accept and begin to love your body and love yourself for who you are, you begin to see the new, beautiful YOU! That’s confidence! And that’s how every cell inside your body too feels and starts loving you for it. “Upon my death, my epitaph should read “Here lies a woman who lived life in such a way that she didn’t die in vain”!