The person behind the paper has HIV.
But we are not showing the person’s face.
Because we still live in an age where to admit you are living with HIV has serious consequences.
People who you know do not want to know you. Your job may be at risk. Your landlord may ask you to leave your room that you are renting from him. Your own family members may not welcome you into their homes any more.
Though we have had HIV in India for 23 years now – it is still the disease that dares not speak its name.
At Jeevan Sahara Kendra we are committed to serving people with HIV. We are also very aware of the stigma that so many of our Positive Friends face when others find out about their status.
That is why we try hard to maintain the confidentiality of each person we serve. That’s why every person who gets counselled and tested for HIV has a code number. That’s why our prayer calenders always use pseudonyms to refer to the Positive Friends we are seeking prayer for. That is why we assure our Positive Friends that whatever they share with us will remain confidential. We will not disclose their identity, status or situations to other people.
At the same time, we wish for the day when people with HIV can be more open about what is happening in their lives. The fear of others ‘finding out’ does so much damage. Besides keeping people from getting the correct treatment for themselves, it also means that many procrastinate telling their spouses and other loved ones about their status.
When combined with a sense of denial – it means that many with HIV never let others know the truth about themselves – always hoping that they will ‘get better’ – always postponing the decision for ‘another time.’ Sadly, for some this means that when others find out about their HIV status, it is too late.
I can remember a young man being carried out on a stretcher – on his last journey to the hospital – mainly because he and his widowed mother did not want others to know about his status.
We must work at both nurturing the trust of people with HIV, helping each person know that their trust is safe with us. At the same time, we want people with HIV to be bolder and come out more about their status. The best example for others to emulate is the courageous step of a person getting up and publicly telling others about their HIV status.
At Jeevan Sahara Kendra we want to be as harmless as doves, but as wise as serpents. We want to protect the identity of our Positive Friends – while at the same time pushing back the boundaries and allowing People living with HIV to stand up and tell about their situations!