HIV Patient Becomes Role Model

She was once shunned by the people in her village in Kotangipatti Union in the district, as she was afflicted by HIV. But the 29 year old Easwari, now a panchayat councillor, has become a role model to guide women afflicted with AIDS.

When she filed the nomination papers for contesting in the general ward, many in the village coerced her to withdraw her papers giving a series of reasons like she would not be able to function effectively, her life span was doubtful and people would not mingle with her.


But an NGO, where she was trained in basic law and pressure-management, helped her to be firm in her resolve to contest, and slowly she cleared the doubts among the minds of the people that no harm would be caused by mingling with the people.

"This is general ward. We are in a democracy. Nobody can prevent me from contesting in elections," she told the people during the poll campaign.

"I had problem even in my own house," Easwari, who got HIV infection in 1997 from her husband Mariappan(33), involved in textile business, said, adding "I was almost ostracised from my house and was given seperate utensils, my own kin dreaded to move closely with me."

It took at least one year to convince them that the HIV will spread only through blood transfusion or through sexual relationship, she said.

Easwari continued with the same strategy in the neighbourhood that helped her to succeed at home. People were impressed by her knowledge of government schemes and projects, to elect her as their councillor. She polled 235 votes in the polls.

Easwari made a thorough study of various government schemes under self-sufficieny programmes and other schemes, helped her ward members and the union itself to improve basic infrastructures.

"I can claim proudly that my ward is self-sufficient in all respects, local people also acknowledge my effort," she said.

Tirukannan, the union Chairman belonging to DMK said "I also consult her for various matters. Her knowledge of government schemes is amazing. I had some inhibition initially but she had helped the union in many ways. We also treat her like any other normal person."

Easwari said she had no problem on educating the illiterate people about HIV and how it would not spread by mere contact. "But the so called educated people were not friendly. Like a sugar patient taking life long medicine… We are taking life long medicine… Myself, my husband and one child, who got HIV from me, are in fact maintaining good health with medicines", she said.

She had problem in getting loans from the banks as the officials were not sure about her life expectancy. "Even if I feel I will live long…They think I will die shortly. Hence they are not extending loan. It was a frustrating experience when some of the bank staff were even hesitant to touch my jewels when I pledged them. I had to counsel them or hide several facts about me to get a loan," she said.

Easwari, who lost her first two children due to HIV infection, admits that she did not have sufficient knowledge about medicines available before they died.

She said she was concerned about many in Theni district, which accounted for the second largest number of HIV victims next to Salem, who ignored their tiredness, coughs, drowsyness and took medicines from the shops directly without consulting doctors.

The cycle doctors (ruarl doctors) were posing a major threat in several parts of not only Theni district, but in many other districts across the state, by using the same syringe for injecting medicine to the patients.

Eswari said she had asked the government to monitor the functioning of such doctors and said "government should rein in otherwise things may go out of control."

Fight against such doctors seems to be her next step in service to the people.

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