This couple represents HIV’s positive face in UP
By Kulsum Mustafa
Starting from the holy city of Prayag (Allahabad) in April 2004, UPNPP today has branches in 20 districts of the state. It has a dedicated membership of 2,500 HIV-positive people and an equal number of volunteers. The UPNPP centers provide networking, counseling and service delivery, including capacity building and advocacy.
“It certainly was not easy to carry the cross and yet wipe the tears off others’ faces. Ajita and I had to walk a path strewn with pain and despair. We just kept asking ourselves one question again and again – God, why us?” says Naresh, his voice choked.
He recalls how his world came crashing down on 28 June 2003, when he was diagnosed HIV positive. Married for just a year and a half, this MBA from Allahabad, was just 29 and on the threshold of a great life and a booming business in Mumbai.
The first person he disclosed his new ‘status’ to was his wife. He was lucky: Ajita (who also tested positive later) took it in the right spirit. His brothers’ reaction too was encouraging. They offered him full emotional support. They together decided not to disclose anything to their aged parents.
Thinking that he had but a few years to live, Naresh wrapped up his business and returned to Allahabad. For nearly a year he roamed around aimlessness, going to holy places, visiting saints, trying anything and everything in order to come to terms with the harsh reality.
His quest took him to a ‘Lawyers’ Collective’ – a group of lawyers who work for rights of HIV people. Here Naresh met many positive people and also learnt about the Indian Network for Positive People living with HIV/AIDS.
Suddenly he knew his mission in life. Life was not just about oneself but for others too: his life acquired a new purpose.
“Who would know better then me how to help positive people. Many positive people would not be as lucky as me. Positive people have to learn to pick up the threads of their lives all over again. I knew God had chosen me to do just that. So in April 2004, UPNPP was born,” says Naresh.
The UP State AIDS Control Society, National AIDS Control Organisation, UNICEF, CARE, Action Aid and many other organizations came forward to support UPNPP. UPNPP organized seminars, workshop, sessions – in short, established a dialogue on the issue till now taboo. The UPNPP has come a long way in the last three years. The Uttar Pradesh Network of Positive People has a formidable network of offices and volunteers across the state and is a well-recognized entity in the state.
“Now we no longer ask God why us – we know why us,” asserts Naresh, confidence sparkling in his eyes.