One of the projects which our donors support is the HIV prevention and care work of Nireekshana ACET, a community based initiative dedicated to the care of people living with HIV and AIDS in Hyderabad, India. The clinic serves the community without prejudice, providing counselling, emotional and spiritual support. Here is just one example of their compassionate response - 25 year old Manju tells her story:
“My parents died when I was a child. I was sexually and physically abused by people I knew and so, when I turned 12, I took a train and travelled to anywhere it would go. I arrived in Hyderabad in 2007 and began to prostitute myself at the train station. The police caught me multiple times but I would run away from the juvenile home that they would put me in.
When I was 15, I met Ebby and Opang, volunteers from Nireekshana. They talked to me kindly and took me to Nireekshana where I tested positive for HIV. I began taking HIV medication and continued taking it for the next two years. There I met other people who were in the same situation as me. A couple gave me a home and food, and encouraged me to take my medication regularly.
Then I met a man and we got married, but life was not easy and I lost hope. I stopped taking my medication and stopped going to Nireekshana for my follow up visits. Years went past, and my health deteriorated because I did not take my medication regularly. I left my husband and went back to my previous lifestyle. I got pregnant once and got an abortion. Then I gave birth to a baby boy but he died within a month. The third time I got pregnant, I went to the government hospital to get the baby aborted, because I had gone back to my husband but didn’t know who the father of the baby was.
There at the hospital, I met Rani, who took me to a clinic. I was shocked that it was Nireekshana - the same place that had helped me before. At the clinic, I was counselled, encouraged to keep the baby, and referred for treatment. I was advised how to maintain my health for my own and the baby’s sake: nutrition, medication, and why I should only drink boiled water.
I am now 7 months pregnant and have visited Nireekshana nine times over the past three months. They show me love and treat me with respect, irrespective of the past I have. I feel like I am a new person: I have left the past life behind and now have hope for a future.”