When UK-based Vincent McDonald visited Pune in January to be part of the celebrations to launch a training facility at Nana Peth as part of the campaign by The Network of Maharashtra People with HIV (NMP+), an organisation formed by people with HIV to improve conditions for positive people, it was a trip down memory lane.
McDonald, who came to India in 2008 with an NGO Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), helped NMP+ campaign with better understanding of HIV, provided free treatment to those positive people who did not receive it by right, initiated affordable travel for treatment, and made efforts for the introduction of an effective HIV/AIDS Bill in Parliament.
People with HIV were being discriminated as there was misunderstanding about the nature of virus and how it spread, said McDonald, who helped the organisation set up a website and build a library of case studies of people with HIV so that researchers and people diagnosed with the disease could feel they were not alone. “I returned home in 2010 but have been closely associated as a volunteer with the NMP+ group,” said McDonald, who also used the opportunity of visit to Pune to meet friends in Nana Peth and Raviwar Peth.
McDonald has also penned an e-book Honey from Dorabjees about his experiences in the city. The book describes the area where he lived, the friendship and support he received from people, and how they supported him when he was briefly ill. It also describes the festivals in the city, including how he fed warkaris as they arrived in the city every year.
While proceeds from the book will be divided equally between VSO, NMP+ and the author, McDonald said he was keen that HIV+ people earn their livelihood.
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Manoj Pardeshi, General Secretary, NMP+, said there are as many as 1.57 lakh HIV+ people registered with the organisation in the state, with 27,000 from Pune itself. “We have got support to start the training centre and have planned three-month modules to train HIV+ people in housekeeping and other skills so that they can find suitable jobs. But we urgently require funds for training,” said Pardeshi.