Treated with Dignity
As *Parvati (Age: 45) a HIV+ widow enrolled in the Hope for Life program – reflects on her life she thoughtfully states that “As the youngest of 7 siblings (3 brothers and 4 sisters) I was pampered and loved by my family. My parents made sure to fulfil all my desires. At my parent’s place I had nothing to worry about. I was happy, content, and unaware/untouched by difficulties in life. But my life drastically changed after I got married to my husband – Prem Shankar at the age of 15”. “I was shocked when one of my uncles asked my hand in marriage for one of his son’s (Parvati’s cousin). I was soon married with no clue of what it means to take care of a family, manage finances, and bring up children”. Parvati moved to Delhi soon after she got married. “My married life was both painful and joyous, because on one hand I would be beaten up by him, I was not allowed to step out of the house and he would constantly doubt my faithfulness to him but on the other hand my husband often pampered me with loving words, fulfilling all my needs, and making sure we ate our meals together” states Parvati as she reminisces memories of her husband.
“My husband knew that he was HIV+. But, whenever I asked him about his medications, he would divert the topic.” It was only when he fell seriously ill and had to be taken to the hospital that I realized the gravity of his illness. I clearly remember how badly I was treated at a government hospital in New Delhi, India- where I took my seriously ill husband. Several doctors taunted me by saying “where/how did you get such a horrible disease?” when Parvati stated that she had no idea about her husband’s illness the hospital staff further accused her by stating “how can you not know your husband’s illness? Aren’t you, his wife?”. Parvati further states that “I took my husband to the hospital in the evening, and he was only admitted to the hospital at 04:00 in the morning the following day. And by 12:00 noon he passed away. After his death I and my youngest son (Alok) tested positive to HIV.” “My world was shattered completely” states Parvati as she fights back tears. “My in laws left immediately after my husband’s death and I was left to care for my 5 children (Pintu, Pankaj, Amit, Kajal (pic below) and Alok).” “I thought I would soon die, and my children will be left orphaned” states Parvati with deep sorrow. “I would not have survived had It not been for the faithful support of my brother-in-law, my brothers and Shalom” states Parvati as she reflects on all the difficulties she faced after her husband’s death. “I didn’t even know how to read bus numbers when I had to travel to hospitals with my young children.” It was Rita an employee of Nav Jeevan Seva Mandal (a partnering NGO that Shalom works with) who introduced me to Shalom.
“At Shalom I found excellent medical care by kind doctors who understood me. I was always treated with dignity” states Parvati with deep gratitude. “At Shalom I found women who like me had lost their husbands to HIV related complications.” “Shalom provided timely nutritional assistance to my family and in Pragya (HFL Field staff) I found an elder sister who stood by me”. Parvati’s children Alok and Kajal are enrolled in the current batch of Character Development Program and Life Skills Education program respectively. Alok states that “At Shalom I learnt what it means to talk respectfully to my elders and the importance of taming my tongue.” Kajal states that “At Shalom I learnt Refusal Skills and ways in which I can build my relationship with my mother”. “I am very grateful to Shalom for all the ways in which they have invested in my family” states Parvati with gratitude. It has been an honor for the Shalom team to walk alongside Parvati and her lovely children.
(Written by Persis Andrews – HIV Home Based Care Project Manager)