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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 December 2003, 11:50 GMT
'I had no-one'
As part of a BBC series on Aids, people living with HIV from around the world tell their own stories in their own words.

Tamil contemplated suicide
Tamil works as a peer educator in Trichi, India. She describes how she lost her husband and child to the disease and how she came to terms with her own infection.

My name is Tamil and I am HIV positive.

I knew very well what my husband's character was like. I frequently advised him not to have sexual contact with so many people but he always wanted many partners.

I had no parents or support, just the marriage. So I was alone - there was nobody to care for me. But after some time, I said look, I have no-one else, so please change your habits. He did improve, but when I fell pregnant again I decided to go for an HIV test.

He said no - there's no need to be tested. So without him knowing, I went to a clinic for a test.

HIV positive

The result: HIV positive. My husband's workplace was some 50 kilometres away, so I rang him up and told him and I said to him that I'm going to commit suicide. He asked me to promise not to and he came to me.

We both knew he was positive without going for a test. I could only have got it from him.

I told them at the time that it was jaundice because I was afraid of the stigma and discrimination
He is dead now. After I was tested, he fell sick due to the depression. He was healthy but the depression brought it on. At the time I was heavily pregnant and it was too late to have an abortion. He didn't eat properly, he wasn't interested in doing so, he just kept saying: I am going to die, there is no medicine, I am going to die.

He lived for 11 days after my child's birth. The 11th day of my second child's birth, he died. Then on the 40th day, the child also died. She was healthy, very healthy - no symptoms, no fever - we don't know what is the reason. Early in the morning, at 4 o'clock, the child died.

No support

It was very hard for me because if I had an arranged marriage I'd have the family's support. Nor did I have the support of my in-laws.

I didn't tell anybody that I had the virus.

I told them at the time that it was jaundice because I was afraid of the stigma and discrimination.

After finding out about my infection I barely left the house. I stayed inside crying and crying. I was so afraid to tell anyone I didn't receive any counselling.

But now I am starting to tell everyone.

I belong to the Tamil Nadu network of Positive People and work as a peer educator.

This interview was conducted by Vineeta Dwivedi of the Hindi section at the BBC World Service

The following comments reflect the balance of views we received:

Life is about being able to create value for oneself and others. It is the greatest awakening when one can start realising one mission in this world. The greatest thing that TAMIL has achieved is starting to live a life of honesty and paving ahead a new future of HIV positive people. This will be an achievement that will leave behind wonderful memory for others and her name to live forever.
sue Ly, Belgium

Hearing the story I was deeply moved. My condolences to Tamil for such disheartening incidents happened in her life. Yet her positive attitude and strong desire to serve others should be viewed as an good example for various others and HIV infected persons in India.
Paval, Coimbatore, India

My heart goes out to Tamil. Her experiences highlight a whole host of other important issues that may have contributed to her hardships and quality of life. The impact on a individual's social and health status due to the perceptions that the community has on AIDS. Tamil is courageous to have battled this far and focus positively on life. She will shed light on the fact that there is life after contracting HIV, to those people who are finding it hard to come to terms with the illness themselves. I wish her all the best.
Farah, Nottingham, England

Hi Tamil. Your story is really touching. Also it makes me think that the whole south Asian society is male dominated and discriminated against females. Since you are already HIV positive and you are no longer shy to face the society, why don't you go to the RED LIGHT areas in Indian cities and educate the thousands of helpless sex workers who are exploited due to their financial reason. Let them know about the NGO who can help them. I am sure they will be enlightened and your contribution to the society will be counted.
Bandhu Raj, Nepal

Do your best to serve the people in your homeland
Achini De Silva, Hiroshima

Dear Tamil. This is common feature for man headed society that you and me belong. But do your best to serve the people in your homeland. Lord Budha`s blessings to you for your hapiness of life.
Achini De Silva, Hiroshima, Japan

Dear Tamil. You are in my thoughts. I appreciate you for being a very courageous woman who came out in public for a cause to defend and concretize many who suffer and die a thousand deaths from segregation and shame even before they actually face real death. You are not alone in this fight. I wish many Indian women come out so that our young understand what it means. Praying for you.
Fr. Shiju Paul SVD, Zambia

Being an Indian, I feel so proud of the character of an Indian woman
Sagar Petkar, UK

I have no words to express for the courage of Tamil, and her fight against HIV. Being an Indian, I feel so proud of the character of an Indian woman. This certainly is a path for progressive Indian future, but equally important is that we all have to get educated about our health and care about our families. I wish my support for Tamil and many who are in this zest for betterment of societies, not only in India, but all over the world.
Sagar Petkar, Newcastle upon Tyne/Pune

Dear Tamil, I am so sorry for you. However, I am also happy that you are so courageously fighting the prejudices of the society, especially when it was no fault of yours. Keep it going. We are all with you.
Pavan, USA

I read the story of Tamil and found her very brave and believe that she can render her valuable service to educate the people by telling her own story. She is never despicable and she is almost like anyone of us and she only needs to see that it does not spreads through her to others. I appreciate the steps taken by the Tamil Nadu Network of Positive People through which they can render their services and wish many more of this sort in different places to combat this killer disease.
Nabya Ranjan Baruah, Toronto, Canada

Perhaps if the Indian government attempted to make its mark on the world stage through the development of progressive HIV/Aids awareness, prevention, treatment and counselling strategies, rather than through nationalistic nuclear programs, Tamil, and other Indians in a similar position would not have to 'suffer in silence'.
John Newton, Australia

Being a Tamilian from Madras myself I can imagine the stigma attached to Aids victims like you - and the tiny amount of available social and governmental support. My heart goes out to you. Good luck.
George Jegadesh, USA

Tamil is a very strong woman, a survivor
Kathryn, Houston USA

Tamil is a very strong woman, a survivor, and I admire her for always doing what she thinks is best for her. I am sorry to hear about all the struggles she has been through and I only hope that now she realizes she can make a difference.
Kathryn, Houston United States

Hi Tamil. I am sorry to hear what happened to you. The loss is terrible and the saddest part of it is you did not do anything to deserve this. I apologize as a fellow citizen for not doing my part to take part in any effort to cultivate awareness about this horrible disease. I can't imagine what you have been through but I admire your courage and promise to support you in every way possible. For a problem like this in a country like ours there is no easy solution. It is the collective responsibility of all citizens to save ourselves. All the educated people in our country have more responsibility than the government. We can't wait for any support from either an institution or group rather we should act upon this, you and I, now, as we speak.
Pawan, India

Tamil's story highlights the problems faced by HIV patients, especially women and children who are poor: social stigma of HIV, feelings of guilt and helplessness. It also underlines the role of organizations like the 'Network of HIV positive people'. I hope social, religious, governmental and non-governmental organizations make a coordinated effort to stem the tide of HIV.
Thiruvengadam Ramakrishnan, New Orleans, LA, USA

I've been really moved to tears reading this part of the interview to Vineeda Dwivedi and it made me do some considerations: in my country, people who suffer from HIV virus are often discriminated.
Pietro Ferrario, Turin-Italy


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