“Radhika”, 32, has been at Sahara since 2005 with her two-and-a-half-year old daughter, “Ajna”, who is also HIV positive. She also has a 10 year old son. Radhika was married in 1994. She describes her husband as a “vagabond…he used to drink and beat me…he did nothing for a living.” Radhika rolled bidis (cigarettes) at home for sale in a store, earning 150 to 200 rupees a week (three or four dollars). She found out she was HIV positive when she was pregnant with Ajna and went for a prenatal check-up. At the time, she didn’t know anything about the disease. In 2004, her husband became very ill, lost a lot of weight, and died. Afterwards, Radhika struggled to feed herself and her children. In 2005 she became very sick, with lesions, scabies and rashes all over her face and elsewhere. Thereafter she was referred to Sahara .
Radhika’s son lives with her mother in law, and her sister comes to visit, but otherwise she doesn’t get help from her family. “I feel free here inside Sahara,” she says with a smile. “I will cry if I leave this place. I have got love and care here that I’ve not gotten for many years. In my family’s home nobody used to even touch us. Here you will hold my child in your lap, I feel nice.” Like many of the clients here, Radhika says it is very important for people to realize the ways you can and cannot contract HIV. “Also, I want people to know that we need love and affection more than anything else. I can make my own food, I can make my own living, but we need other people to love and accept us.”