Women living with HIV in Delhi driven to a life of poverty

Hundreds of women living with HIV in Delhi are being driven to a life of poverty because of stigma, discrimination and a lack of basic human rights says the Delhi Mahila Samithi – the State Women Forum of Delhi Network of Positive People -today (Sunday 8th March).

To mark International Womens Day, the network is calling on the Delhi State Aids Control Society to take concrete action and tackle the roots of inequity and fear which underpins their lives.

Over two decades since the first HIV case in India, women and their children living with HIV are still being denied their basic human rights day in day out. Stigma and discrimination remains rife in health, educational and social institutes and women are outcast and isolated by their families and society. As a result of this, many are left without financial or emotional support and no roof over their head, which leaves them struggling to survive.

Sonadevi aged 25 describes the stigma and discrimination her husband and son faced in hospital and how own family have disowned her; “I admitted my son to hospital as he was not feeling well. When they found out he was HIV+, people just stood around and stared at him.

They would not even change the sheets as they were worried they would be infected. My husband was also really ill but no-one would give him medication or touch him. He has now passed away and I have been thrown out of the family.

Rekha explains how her husband was not even given a proper burial because of the ignorance and fear surrounding the illness; “At his funeral people even refused to cremate him because they were worried they would catch the virus.”

To tackle these issues and alleviate the burden of suffering on women living with HIV in Delhi, the Delhi Mahila Samiti calls for empowerment through:

Government funded income generation programs so women can sustain themselves
Better communication about services and schemes in Delhi to support WLHIV
Women allowed to stay in the marital home once their spouses have died and allowed to access their property rights. Shelter should be provided if they are made homeless.
A mass mobilisation campaign with friendly information to women and girls to tackle stigma and discrimination
Women and their children provided with nutritional support to ensure physical health

President of the Delhi Mahila Samithi, Celina says: “As women living with HIV, we have a mountain to climb to grasp our human rights.. Stigma and discrimination remains endemic and imbedded in others own ignorance and fear. With rates of infection amongst women rising, failure to address these injustices will plunge many more women into poverty and despair.

As women living with HIV we have come out of the shadows to speak out loud and clear. These voices must surely be heard.

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