A Bihar village has shown the way on how to treat an HIV-positive person. Not only has it thrown out the social isolation,stigma and humiliation associated with the disease,it has even elected an HIV-positive woman as a ward member.
This village of 4,000 people,27 km from Gaya,has scripted a story that could be an inspiration for the more than 2.4 million HIV-affected people in India.
Vimla Devis husband,Dayal Singh,died of AIDS in March 2000. These nine years have been one long struggle for her,particularly after she and her youngest son,who is 10 years old,tested positive in 2002.
The 39-year-old and her family had just one room to call their own. Braving initial taunts and humiliation,Vimla took a shop in Dhibar market on Rs 200 per month rent and started a stitching training centre. Soon support replaced the taunts,as the villagers began to admire her strength.
The villagers also made sure that the government school admitted her son.
Ganga Prasad,an elderly villager,says,We sent our girls to learn stitching from her. This helped Vimla earn enough to provide for her family.
A Fatehpur family then accepted her daughter Riya,19,who had tested normal,as their daughter-in-law. I am treated like a normal daughter-in-law, Riya says.
In 2006,the villagers decided that Vimla should contest for the membership of ward number six of the Dhibar panchayat. Mina Devi,another contestant,withdrew her candidature. I respected her grit and so,withdrew my candidature, she says.
Vimla is now actively working for the development of the place,says village headwoman Laxmi Devi.
This is not all. Today,Vimla is the poster-woman of the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO). The organisation featured her in its magazine,Gram Sandesh,last year. She is also associated with the Bihar State AIDS Control Society and worked for the Red Ribbon Express last year.
Vimla,however,regrets not getting any support from the state Government. I had only once got Rs 5,000 from the Gaya administration. That was all.
Bihar State AIDS Control Society Joint Director Vishal Singh admitted that the state needed to start some projects for HIV-affected people. Vimla has set an example. We must do something special for them, he said.