Love is messy, love is kind, and more than anything, love is complicated.
Especially if you already live with other complications.
“It’s anyway so hard to find a partner and then now I discovered I had HIV. I felt my life was ruined. But then I did a play...a romantic play.,,.and met my future partner,” says writer and director Sarang.
Mona Balani, an HIV survivor adds, “My love gave me HIV, and while he passed away, HIV has given me a lot of love. I would never blame him, and I can never find anyone like that again.”
This World Aids Day, FIT looks beyond the stigmas and the misconceptions into the real-life stories, the love stories of positive people. Because after all, love is love.
2.14 Mill People Affected; What Are Their Stories?
Since it’s beginning, HIV has snatched the lives of over 32 million people, affecting a total of 75 million worldwide. In 2017’ India, there were around 2.14 million people living with HIV according to National AIDS Control Organisation estimates.
But buried behind the stats are people, living and loudly proudly. What’s their story, how did they meet and how did the sparks fly?
Gautam, an LGBTQ and HIV activist, tells me that while the stigma did creep into one of his relationships, for another guy, it was all the same. “I have faced stigma, people ask me why I am HIV positive and on dating apps! But then I found someone who it doesn't matter to. Because of some other issues, we are not together,” but love and acceptance do transcend all barriers.
Gautam and Sarang say while it is important to disclose your status to the person you are intimate with, you don’t need to broadcast it as it will create unnecessary stigmas.
Sarang.“I always advise young people who discover they have HIV, first learn to deal with it yourself, accept it and become strong before you decide to tell anyone as you are very vulnerable at that time, and random remarks can be very hurtful.”
But for Amruta, a transwoman, her life was an open book…and it lead her to her husband.
“I met my partner on Facebook bout my partner, we were chatting for a long time. I was open and out about my HIV status on social media. So he was connected through that and we came to know each other and he proposed to me on 2 November 2018/ We got married on 25 March 2019 in a traditional ceremony in Bihar.”
The stigma she faces is from outside the relationship and is two-fold, because of her HIV status and because she is a trans-woman with a straight man.
Love is Love, But Certain Precautions Remain
One thing everyone couldn’t stress enough? Condoms! “Protection and safe sex, even for casual encounters is a must. Even though I am virtually undetectable, I never recommend anyone to have sex without a condom,” says Gautam.
Sarang cheekily adds that condoms are more than protection, “There are so many that increase your pleasure that’s what the condom companies sell us.”
Amruta says that it’s not just condoms though, “See being an HIV+ person, you have to take care that your HIV virus shouldn’t be transmitted to your partner. So many things to take care, no wounds, no STI that can transfer the infection to the other person.”
The second most potent advice is that HIV is treatable. The government has a test and treat policy now, so free treatment is available as soon as you test positive.
Sarang.“It’s not true that being HIV+ is a death sentence. Just always, always remember to take your medication on time and you will be fine. You can lead a normal life.”
. Read more on Fit by The Quint.RSS & BJP’s Nehru-Netaji ‘Cosplay’: Irony Dies a Thousand DeathsLove Can Be Positive: Stories of Love From People With HIV . Read more on Fit by The Quint.