HIV- When you hear this acronym, what is it that goes on in your head?
Something along the lines of: fear, anger, blame and pity? I’ve been guilty of the same, despite being a medical student. But recently, I’ve been interacting with a lot of HIV positive patients for a project. And that has helped changed my mindset and outlook towards it. I hope that you feel the same way once you finish reading this.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus is one of the worst things that has happened to this world. What was at first considered to be a rare disease, has now affected millions of people around the world. Once it enters the body of a person, it divides in the immune cells and gradually wrecks the immune system. Thereby making the infected individual vulnerable to a wide range of opportunistic infections. Now before you start fighting your pity with anger that it’s their fault they have to suffer from this dreadful disease, I’d request you to please stop. It’d be straight-up a sin to judge on this issue because no matter what , absolutely no-one deserves to suffer through this deadly disease. It’s a general notion that once a person is infected, things just go downhill from there and it’s as good as dying or worse! But we are so off the mark.On my first day of the project, I was shocked to see a healthy, beautiful middle-aged woman sitting in the Anti-Retroviral Treatment Centre, patiently waiting for the nurse to hand over her medicine. As she saw me looking at her, she gave me a warm smile. I went to her and asked her if she was willing to fill out a few questions for me. She readily agreed and answered all the questions after properly reading them. Before leaving she wished me luck as well. She was just the first of many such happy and content people who came one after the other, working as taxi-drivers, NGO workers, helpers, farmers and so on. I was blown away by their confidence and zest. Those who could not read, I read out the questions to them hesitantly since most of them were personal. They didn’t even blink an eye and answered them in a matter-of-factly manner. Some of them were genuinely depressed and I could feel their pain. With each tick to questions regarding self-destruction and self-blame, I felt a stab to my heart. The ones who’d lost their spouses were the ones who came out as the most depressed and it was fairly evident how alone they felt. With all the social stigma and the hostility attached to this disease, carrying on with life every day it nothing short of fighting a war.
They could have easily reacted with the same hostility towards me as well. Why bother answering anything at all, least of all such personal questions? It was of no interest to them, I wasn’t of any benefit to them. Instead they chose to be cordial, polite and most importantly patient with me when I was fumbling due to my broken Kannada. I was humbled by them. It showed me life is not always about give and take, not always black or white. There are bigger and more important things than social media, materialistic possessions and every other non-sense we fight over these days. Life is about living each day with gratitude, showing kindness and being brave. We keep complaining and whining over little things which don’t actually matter. We while away the precious time we have fussing over our differences, egos and what not! Thus, we miss out on the big picture completely.
The recent medicines have helped improve the immune status of AIDS patients. Also, the regular counselling at the ART Centers has given them a healthy way to vent out how they really feel without the fear of being judged. A little bit of love and care can work wonders and before you know it, you might have given someone the strength to walk away from suicide.
HIV does NOT spread by: talking, handshakes, being sneezed on, sharing baths, towels ,using the same toilets or swimming pools,mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or contact with animals or insects such as mosquitoes. So dump all your false notions and clean up your head. Next time you come across anyone with HIV, respect them instead of giving them reproachful looks.Who knows, you might even become a better person in the process.
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