Tarangini Sriraman

NGO gives them a fresh lease of life by enrolling them as community volunteers

While Roja contracted the disease from her husband, Sujata is a victim of blood transfusionLuckily Sujata's husband and their two babies did not contract the diseaseBoth of them are now involved in counselling infected persons and creating awareness about AIDS

HYDERABAD: Both Roja and Sujata have more than one thing in common. They were both married when they were less than 14-years-old and are both HIV-positive. While Sujata contracted HIV through blood transfusion from her father, Roja contracted it from her second husband.

Roja and Sujata, like most other HIV/AIDS victims, became infected with the disease for no fault of theirs. Roja was forced into a child marriage at 13, and later into another marriage when she was 20 years old, on both occasions to men twice her age.

Though she contracted AIDS from her husband and took care of him before he died, he accused her of passing on the disease to him.

"I had very little to live for, because everybody blamed me of killing my husband though all the people in my village, Annajuda near Ghatkesar knew that he had given me the disease. My in-laws kicked me out of the house and did not let me see my own children," recounts Roja.

Sujata's story is even more heart-rending as she contracted the disease on account of the doctor's negligence in overseeing blood transfusion.

"Though I was married at the age of 7 in my village, Bekkal in Warangal, I never stayed with my husband," she says. Before she was given away in marriage the second time, she fell ill and was in desperate need of blood. Her father, who was closest to her at the moment, gave her blood and the doctor did not bother to test the same.

Narrow escape

It was only when Sujata was pregnant that she was told by the same doctor about her condition. Though Sujata's husband and her baby miraculously enough, did not contract the disease, her husband's callousness became cause for another pregnancy.

This time too, Sujata was lucky, her second baby and her husband escaped unscathed from AIDS.

Ray of hope

It is at Gandhi hospital that they met volunteers from the City-based Nrityanjali Academy while undergoing treatment. "They counselled and gave me a job here. The satisfaction that I get out of counselling other infected victims and creating awareness among ordinary people about the disease has helped me regain hope and dignity," says Roja.

Both of them are community volunteers now involved in counselling other HIV/AIDS victims. As they do their community service cheerfully, they do not regard the prospect of AIDS with a sense of impending doom.

They have the satisfaction of knowing that they have delivered uninfected people from a fatal disease and of helping those infected find a purpose for living.