Have a `positive' approach

Staff Reporter

Violence, stigma bog down women with HIV

MADURAI: Who said home is the place where an individual can gather grace?

It is not true always, at least in the case of many women who are HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) positive.

Family is one of the sources of discrimination and violence against women living with HIV/AIDS and it is also one of the least addressed areas, revealed HIV-positive women at an interactive session organised by Stop Violence here recently.

The violence and stigma bog down women living with HIV on a day-to-day basis. Added to this was widowhood, which reduced livelihood opportunities to a large extent, they said.

Coming together from seven taluks of Madurai district, more than 25 HIV-positive women, in a unique interface with key government officials and representatives from panchayat raj institutions, said steps should be taken to provide special treatment for HIV-positive women at government hospitals and women specialists must be trained in treating patients with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) of their gender.

The women said denial of medical services, verbal abuse by healthcare providers and discrimination from family and society were the major challenges they faced. A few of them said their husbands did not co-operate in treating STIs.

In a base line survey conducted by the Positive Women Network, positive women

narrated stunning incidents at the hands of their family members, said Sridhar, project coordinator, Positive Women Network (PWN+), which took shape in 1998.

It would be ironical to note that these women were not ready to come out of their families that tried various tricks to chuck them out.

A number of recommendations were put forth for their benefit, which included stringent laws on domestic violence, protection from property rights violations and programmes for economic empowerment under Government patronage.

For over a year, Stop Violence has helped 40 HIV-positive women from Madurai district become aware of their rights.

Besides, the network has conducted baseline surveys on personal experience of people living with HIV, reproductive health, violence, property and livelihood.

It has also conducted training programmes on issues such as reproductive health and rights, gender based violence, legal literacy and livelihood.

Stop Violence project was aimed at reducing violence against HIV-positive women and ensuring better access to rights and services by increasing women's awareness, simultaneously reaching out to health and social welfare officials, Mr. Sridhar said.

The project is implemented by Positive Women's Network in coordination with Tamil Nadu Network of Positive People (TNPP+) and Madurai District HIV Positive People Welfare Society (MDPS+).

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