|© UNICEF Nepal/2008/Joshi|
|Dinesh, 10, helps his mother Gaura wash the dishes at the UNICEF-supported Nava Kiran Plus Care Centre in Mangalsen, Accham District, Nepal.|
By Rupa Joshi
ACCHAM DISTRICT, Nepal, 2 May 2008 – Four women sitting cross-legged on the floor are singing the melancholic strains of a song. The women, all of whom are from families affected by HIV in this remote area of western Nepal, improvise the words and help each other complete the couplets:
Flowers bloom in the garden, this life is of but two days / Our lives have become a banishment due to HIV/AIDS
One of the women, Gaura, 30, had a husband who went to India to seek work and returned carrying HIV. He died of an AIDS-related illness nine years ago. But Gaura came to know the facts only after she herself was diagnosed as HIV-positive. Her youngest son also died from AIDS at age three.
Fearful for the well-being and future of her only surviving child, Dinesh, 10, Gaura has been staying at the UNICEF-supported Nava Kiran Plus Care Centre in Mangalsen, which is run by staff members who are themselves living with HIV.
“The Accham project is one very small example of a huge problem right across South Asia,” said UNICEF Regional HIV/AIDS Advisor Ian Macleod. “Men have been migrating to India for work, visiting sex workers and bringing back HIV to their families.”
Gaura is feeling better these days, not only because she is getting anti-retroviral treatment, but also because she does not have to worry about her son’s education. The centre is paying for him to attend a good school in Mangalsen.
It has been months since Gaura was back in her own village. She spent all that she owned – including proceeds from the sale of her land – to treat her husband for a disease that mystified her. He died without telling her that he had AIDS.
Gaura is not alone
When it came time to pay for her own treatment, there was nothing in the coffers. Only when she learnt her HIV status did she realize the significance of the repeated pleas for forgiveness from her husband before his death.
Gaura takes comfort from the fact that she is not alone – especially when she is with other women in the same situation at the Nava Kiran centre. Plugging her right ear with a finger to heighten the resonance of her voice, she draws in a long breath and sings:
The plough digs up in rows the earth in the field / HIV disease has robbed our lives of all yield