Beyond HIV Status.

I am Monalisha; I joined Alliance India about eight months back. Alliance India is a non-governmental organisation, operating in partnership with civil society, government and communities to support sustained responses to HIV in India that protect rights and improve health. Being a science student, I knew HIV/AIDS as a disease but was ignorant of the struggles and challenges faced by people living with HIV in our society.

While working here, my path crossed with HIV survivors, transgender men and women, and LGBTQ+ people as my colleague. Transgender and LGBTQ+ people are some of the key population affected with HIV because of social, economic and legal exclusion in the society, which leads to them experiencing high levels of stigma, discrimination, gender-based violence and abuse.

Attitudes and reactions of society towards people living with HIV is the outcome of ignorance and lack of awareness. As a consequence of which HIV-positive persons are identified with risk groups. The lack of accurate information on HIV in society causes stereotypical tension and discrimination.

One day, in the office, I met a young man, we talked for a while then went to our respective desks. Later that day, I came to know that he is a trans-man, does that change anything for me? The answer is NO! Because he is as “normal” as a young boy could be, probably it challenged my understanding of “normal”. Similarly, there are many HIV survivors associated with our organization, leading a healthy and probably happier life than us. Our society has a preconception of being “normal” and those who don’t fit into it are being discriminated against.

People are judged based on their choices, whether it’s the way they dress or whom they want to love. They are being judged at different stages of their life, from their families to friends, to colleagues. They are being called by different names and slang, sometimes it becomes so frequent that they start blaming themselves for it. They restrict themselves. They too have dreams that they want to fulfil and lead a good healthy life ahead. 

They want some love and respect and also some empathy from this society and to be treated as “normal” and not something called “special”.

Despite all this negativity out there, there is still a place where they are “normal”. Alliance India provide a work environment that makes every employee feel valued while also acknowledging their differences. 

I hope to see a world, where we all would be treated equally regardless of our gender, HIV status, race, gender, religion or cast. This change might take time, but we are positive that one day it will happen. We will be able to end AIDS in India and the discrimination for good, till then please be kind to one another and help us in building a supportive and inclusive environment for all.

In Conclusion, we all are more than our status whether it’s our gender, class, caste or HIV status. Nothing can and should limit us to live our life to the fullest. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are of the authors and in no way purport to reflect the opinions or views of people living with HIV or the LGBTQA community. Any views and opinions are not intended to malign any gender, religion, or community.