“Pratap”, 35, came to Sahara in 2005 with his wife “Sita”, 28, and their two sons, 9 and 7. Pratap was infected before his marriage. From birth, their older son had many illnesses and developmental problems, and both he and Sita were tested and found to be positive. Their younger son is not infected.
In 2005, the family became very ill with pneumonia, headache, diarrhea, and oral thrush infections that would not go down even with government-supplied antibiotics. Pratap used to be a prosperous vegetable vendor and he smiles when he talks about taking his children to restaurants and the movies. When the family became sick, he gradually spent his life savings of 2 1/2 lakhs (250,000 Rs, or $6000 US) and even sold his wife’s gold jewellery. The children had to stop going to school.
With the help of another NGO, the family obtained free antiretroviral drugs from the government and began to recover. But then their neighbours noticed volunteers coming to their house and recognized the AIDS symbols on their caps. Storekeepers began to shun them. Neighbours would shout at them in the street. Finally, the landlord threw them out. The family went to stay with Pratap’s parents, who told them to sleep outside, on the terrace, and not to use the parents’ bathroom. After only ten days, they asked them to leave altogether. “‘If you stay here, we’ll also get sick,’ they said. I tried to tell them this is not how you get AIDS. But they are totally closed,” says Pratap through an interpreter.
When the family came to Sahara, they were emotionally distraught and exhausted. Now, Sita is about to begin work as a counsellor to other people living with HIV and AIDS. Their dream is to once again live independently as a family. “I would like to tell people everywhere that your care and support can help others and give them a better future,” Sita says through an interpreter.