When they married,he knew he was HIV-positive,she did not. By the time she found out,it was too late to save herself – but not too late,she decided,to save other women.
In the nine years since she was diagnosed positive,Vaishali Sanjay Shinde,now 28,has been on a single-handed mission to educate women on HIV. Based on the theme Pratyakala Manoos Mahnoon Jagnaycha Haqq Ahey (Everyone has the right to live as a human being),her one-woman campaign not only seeks to make women aware of the dangers of AIDS but also stresses equal rights,self-reliance,dignity and unity among women.
A Class X dropout and four feet tall,Vaishali has a towering presence on stage where she delivers fiery speeches on AIDS awareness. I tell girls to ask their grooms to get HIV test certificates before marriage. This should be made mandatory, she says.
Vaishali had launched her mission out of bitterness against her late husband and his family. She believes they deliberately destroyed her life.
It was only eight days before he died that my husband Sanjay told me he had been visiting commercial sex workers before marriage and contracted HIV. All through three years of marriage,he and his family kept telling me that he was suffering from TB, says Vaishali,a resident of Belwade Budruk in Satara district.
Vaishali married Sanjay in 1997. In 1999 they had a child,who died three months after birth. Sanjay died in 2000.
Sanjays confession left Vaishali numb but she took care of him. In the end he couldnt even get up from the bed,yet I took care of him till he died, she says. Now when I reach my end,who will take care of me? I will fight it alone, she says.
For all the care she took of him,Vaishali says she will never forgive her husband. He lied to me… he destroyed my life. My child too died of AIDS. How can I forgive such a man? He deliberately ruined my life, she says.
My in-laws are all educated,yet they did not think once before marrying me to an HIV-affected man. I will show no mercy to them, she adds.
Vaishali was diagnosed with HIV soon after Sanjay died. She sued her in-laws in a lower court in Satara for cheating her. The court sentenced her parents-in-law to six months in jail in 2006 but Vaishali,not satisfied,appealed in the district court. They should get at least 10 years in jail, she says.
At a function in Pimpri on Saturday,she was given an award by the Vishwakalyan Sanstha for her courage and exemplary service towards mankind.
My fight for the protection of women will continue till my death. I have campaigned against AIDS in Satara,Solapur,Nagar,Ratnagiri,Chiplun and Pune. I will carry my mission with the help of voluntary organisations to every nook and corner of Maharashtra, she says.