Kerala

Life comes to standstill for a family of HIV positive during COVID pandemic

For the past 18 years, Rema and her children have been living a life of neglect and social exclusion. The stigma of being affected by HIV transmitted through her husband Shaji, who died after contracting the disease through a blood transfusion, is continuing to haunt them even today.

Since 2003, Ms. Rema and her children had been in the news after they faced a social boycott. The children had to discontinue their school education for a year, after the parents of about 400 children of Kottiyoor Sreenarayana LP School put up placards and prevented them from attending the school. They lost their education for a year.

The two affected children, who have now completed their graduation a few years back, continue to face the social stigma. In 2016, Akshara, while studying psychology, revealed her disease to her roommates in the college hostel. This forced her to live in a separate room after two boarders and many others in the hostel expressed their wish to leave the hostel and refused to share the room with her.

While her brother Ananthu completed her graduation in commerce, he worked for sometimes in Bangalore. Unlike, Akshara, thanks to his childhood friends, he got support from them in various stages of his life.

But the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has made their life more challenging. All the three are now forced to stay in their home and are facing huge crisis as they have no job or a source of income to move forward.

Ms. Rema told The Hindu that she was initially given a job of the positive speaker in a non-governmental organisation, which was working with the sex worker, to create awareness about HIV. Then MLA PK Sreemathy teacher helped to get the work and a wage of ₹ 3000 was paid. All the expenses including traveling to places for work and taking care of the children were met with this small money, she said.

"However, they suddenly stopped me from the work and despite meeting Ms. Sreemathy and knocking every door possible to get back the work, no help came from any quarters, she lamented. The government officials and even the health workers turned their back on us,” she accused.

Mr. Rema claimed that the Collector had also passed an order sanctioning 10 cents of land in an area, which would have been accessible for us to reach to the hospital and considering our situation then. “Even the village officer met us in this regard. However, we are continuing to stay in the house, which is on top of a slope, cut off from people and with no road accessibility,” she rued.

Mr. Akshara said that a little help comes whenever news appears about them. Despite highly educated people, her experience a few years ago shows that society is still insensitive towards people like her, she observed.

Though she wishes to continue higher studies and even appeared for examinations in institutions like Tata Institute of Social science and few other colleges, she could not get admission.

It's been three years since she completed graduation, But due to poor financial situation, she has now dropped her dreams of pursuing higher studies.

"I have decided to keep aside my interest to pursue higher education, after considering the general interest of the family to survive," she said and added the time during COVID has brought their life to a standstill.


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Printable version | Aug 2, 2021 7:00:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/life-comes-to-standstill-for-a-family-of-hiv-positive-during-covid-pandemic/article34803396.ece

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