Sonal Mali (name changed on request), an HIV positive is happily married for the last two years. She met her husband, who is also an HIV positive, in a marriage meet organised by Deep Griha, a Pune-based NGO working for the benefit of people with HIV in the city.
Mali had given up all hopes of settling in life, but is now optimistic towards the future. “I was very happy to find a partner who was like me and loves me. We had a court marriage after we met each other in a marriage meet. We are happily married now,” she says, adding, “I feel that all HIV positive people must be optimistic and live life happily as all other normal people do.”
There are many others like Mali, who, abandoned by their families are fighting a lone battle against HIV and AIDS, the final stage of the infection caused by the virus, which has so far consumed an estimated 3.6 crore (3 crore to 4.2 crore) people across the globe, according to a United Nations AIDS report.
Avinash Chakranarayan, founder member and head of Deep Griha, said, “People with HIV also have a right to live a normal life like others, which unfortunately, they are often denied.” According to UN AIDS website, there are around 3.53 crore people living with HIV globally, out of which India alone accounts for 21 lakh people with HIV. Among them, more than one-third (7.5 lakh) are women aged 15 and above.
Chakranarayan adds that most people with HIV are cast away by their family members, have no support, and are forced to live alone. This motivated them to organise a marriage meet where people with HIV could meet and contact each other. At times, things work out in the first meet, and sometimes, they stay in touch through email and phone. Till now, the NGO has conducted more than 50 such marriages successfully.
“It is immense pleasure to see people with HIV happily married. Some of them even have healthy kids now,” says Chakranarayan. Deep Griha organises the marriage meet for people with HIV every year in August. Currently in its third year of operation, the marriage meet sees participation of hundreds of people from Maharashtra and other parts of the country, and Chakranarayan expects the numbers to grow. However, he stresses that family support is very important in the lives of people with HIV. “If the family supports people with HIV, chance of them living a normal life increases to a large extent,” he reminds us.
What is World AIDS Day?
December 1 is celebrated globally as World AIDS Day to unite people across the world in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first-ever global health day. The first one was held 1988.