AIDS widows honoured for fighting it out

MUMBAI: Widowed by AIDS, deserted by relatives and fired from her job after she was diagnosed as HIV positive, 40-year-old Reshma Koregaonkar (name changed) from Mangalwadi slum in Santa Cruz has had it tougher in life than most others. However, the mother of two, whose husband died of AIDS in 1996, hasn’t been cowed down.

Soldiering on and diligently following her doctors’ advice, she hopes for a brighter future someday.

"I look after myself now. I have to keep going, at least for my daughters’ sake,” she says. Koregaonkar has taken up a new job and is the sole breadwinner for her family.

Times of India

Her optimism got a boost on Monday when she was selected as one among the 46 widows on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) who was felicitated by MP Supriya Sule at the state-run JJ Hospital in Byculla for her resolve in sticking to the treatment. Koregaonkar has been on ART since 2004.

"The felicitation was supposed to be a motivation to those with HIV/AIDS as well as an example to others that people can live near-normal lives if they are regular with their treatment,” said Dr Alaka Deshpande who heads JJ Hospital’s ART centre. Of the 2,548 women enrolled at the centre, nearly 35% are widows.

Another survivor related how her CD4 count (an indicator of a person’s immunity) had gone up from 39 in 2004 to an encouraging 748 today.

Explaining how tough the journey is for those like Koregaonkar , Dr Deshpande said women faced several hurdles while continuing their treatment . "Sometimes they face difficulties in commuting, others may have a tough time getting leave from their workplaces or sometimes they suffer reactions such as rash or diarrhoea and local doctors just tell them to stop ART,” she said, adding that the medical fraternity, too, needs more awareness.

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