PARVEEN was 27 when she became a widow. She had two young children to take care of, with no support or job. And if that was not bad enough, she came to know that she was HIV-positive.
A believer in “everything happens for good,” Parveen is an uncanny survivor. From attempting suicide to becoming strong enough to support her four-member family – two daughters aged 8 and 9 and her mother – she has come a long way.
A native of Davangere, Parveen was in for a shock when her husband became severely ill due to TB and was paralysed. When he was admitted to hospital and a blood test, his HIV status came to light. By then, Parveen had already given birth to her second child, which is her biological offspring.
A test on her and the children revealed that while Parveen had been infected, the children tested negative.
“When I came to know that I was HIV-positive, I immediately stopped breast-feeding my one-year-old daughter,” she recalls. Parveen says she adopted her older daughter when she was just a day old, from a clinic where a woman had abandoned her.
From there, her journey was downhill. “I was a housewife before my husband, who was a businessman, died. I heard about ActionAid India NGO and became involved in their activities. I came to Bangalore to interact with other NGO members and realised that I wasn’t alone. There were other positive people too,” she says.
Fear of stigma
However, she was desperately looking out for a job and saw an advertisement for door-to-door sale of encyclopedia in Hubli. She worked there for six months before her manager came to know about her HIV status.
Fearing stigma, Parveen quit the job and after talking to NGOs and people living with HIV (PLHIV), she returned home and got in touch with Karnataka Network of Positive people (KNP+).
The network supported her to form a PLHIV network – Sanjeevani – in the district in 2005, which worked for access to care and treatment project and adherence to ART.
Parveen left the network last year and was jobless for nearly seven months. “It was a very trying time for me. I didn’t have any job and we survived on the widow’s pension of Rs 400, which my mother and I received,” she says. Then a proposal to work with Sangama, an NGO, as district HIV activist revived her life.
Today, having the task of fighting against discrimination against PLHIVs, Parveen is also part of Karnataka HIV Sonkithara Sanghatane. She has also been able to send her daughters, to study in a government-aided private Kannada medium school.
While Parveen, who is currently completing her BA via correspondence course, has not disclosed her HIV status to her children, she intends to do it when they grow up.
(Published in Deccan Herald on 1st December, 2010)