Diagnosed with HIV, positive towards life

The fear of contracting the disease combined with negative feelings, people have contributed towards the stigma, which is associated with HIV/ AIDS. What makes it worse is the social taboo that is associated with the disease, often forcing patients to keep the disease hidden from others. And, it was the same in case of Mumbai’s Raju Swargam who narrates his ordeal on the occasion of ‘World AIDS Day’

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Raju Swargam a 42-year-old Mumbai resident opted for love marriage without family’s consent. Everything was going smoothly until the year 2001, in which he was diagnosed with HIV. Tables turned, his wife divorced him, family disowned him and he lost his job as well. He slept on the streets, on an empty stomach, owing to poor financial condition.

After HIV, he also suffered from tuberculosis (TB). His immunity weakened; still, he bravely fought for his life. And since last five years, Swargam is counselling the AIDS patients at BYL Nair Hospital’s Antiretroviral therapy (ART) centre. Also, he remarried in the year 2014.

Speaking about his struggle, Raju Swargam said, “People cornered me, as soon as I contracted AIDS. During that time, there were no ART centres. I underwent ayurvedic treatment. Later, I suffered from TB and depression, due to which, my immunity became low.”

He added, “I got additional information in the ART. After which, I made my mind to work for the benefit of the AIDS patients. Since the year 2013, I am working as a counselor in BYL Nair Hospital’s Antiretroviral therapy (ART) centre. I educate patients about the disease, medicines and the facilities provided by the state government and I motivate them to live their life to the fullest. Also, during that time I fell in love and remarried. We are happy now.”

After 10 years, Swargam visited his village. “Everyone spoke to me nicely. Due to the increasing awareness regarding AIDS, now, the society’s point of view is changing towards it for the better,” said Swargam.