This couple represents HIV’s positive face in UP

© Kulsum Mustafa/UNICEF/2007
Naresh Yadav addressing a public gathering on HIV/AIDS

By Kulsum Mustafa
ALLAHABAD October 2007: As they smile into the camera they appear like any other normal, middle class couple. But Naresh and Ajita Yadav are special – they are a ‘positive’ couple bound together by HIV virus. Founder President of the Uttar Pradesh Network of Positive People (UPNPP), it was Naresh who took the bold step of lending their faces to the HIV/AIDS campaign and initiating a movement to bring together the HIV positive people of Uttar Pradesh on to one platform.

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.
For this, Naresh decided to boldly come forward and tell the world his story. "Never mind the stigma and possible banishment from society, I decided that I had to give a face to HIV/AIDS in the state," is how Naresh explains his decision to disclose his status to society.

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.

Ajita joined her husband in his mission to live for others. The couple, under medical treatment themselves, help apply soothing balm on shattered souls. With the support of dedicated volunteers, they drive away fears and depression in positive people and replace it with confidence and a will to live life to the full.

“Now we no longer ask God why us – we know why us,” asserts Naresh, confidence sparkling in his eyes.



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