In a society where HIV positive people are still stigmatised, labelled and judged, Ratna Jadhav, a 40-year-old woman from Beed, Maharashtra, is making her presence felt, and making sure that her voice is heard loud and clear. She will not budge down to pressure or societal norms.
Ratna herself is an HIV positive person. But, rather than surrendering to the disease, she is fighting against it. Not only is she fighting it, but also inspiring and encouraging others like her to do the same. She is pure ‘Shakti’ who is on the mission to make sure that no HIV positive patient kills themselves due to depression or harassment his/her life. And, she has made this mission her life.
Ratna was barely a teenager when her parents married her off to Dattu Jadha, a 21-year-old from Panvel, Navi Mumbai. But, she had to pay a very heavy price when she got married to him.
Ratna was kept in dark about her husband’s illness. And, finally, when she realised it, it was far too late. Ratna’s husband was an HIV positive patient. The doctors refused to treat him; by then Ratna was already four months pregnant when Dattu died.
Completely dejected, Ratna, went in for a blood test and was tested positive for HIV. She delivered a boy, who was also tested positive. But, her agony didn’t end here. She lost her child to HIV, when he was barely 11-month-old. Ratna’s entire world came crashing down in front of the eyes.
While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Ratna Jadhav said, “The sequence of events, everything going so fast, I didn’t know what to do, and where to go. I was completely numb for months. I felt that’s the end of my life, and I had no purpose to live on. Months passed and finally, I gathered myself and started searching for a job to survive in this world.”
But, finding a job was even more difficult for her due to her disease. As people knew that she is HIV positive, they stigmatised, shunned and humiliated her.
Ratna says, “No one came forward to help me. No one, not a single soul. No one bothered at all. People didn’t give me work. That’s the time I got to know that people have a different way of looking at the HIV positive people. One lady came and met me. She and her family were ostracised as they were HIV positive. I can never forget those days which I went through.”
Recently in December 2017, Ratna Jadhav had gone to Switzerland, where she addressed around 200 international delegates.
On being asked about the experience she says, “It was a wonderful and an experience of a lifetime. I am happy that my work has been recognised on the an international level.”
Ratna has been working with an NGO called ‘Comprehensive Rural Health Project,’ in Marathwada, Maharashtra since the past 10 years now. She creates awareness about HIV in villages and schools.
While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Ratna said, “I would appeal to people, especially the younger generation, rather than matching the horoscope, make sure that before getting married you should get a blood test done. And share the results with your partner. Horoscopes will not shape your future, a blood test surely will.”
Being an HIV positive person, Ratna has a special message for people infected with the HIV. “Never let the disease overpower you. Keep fighting and one day you will conquer the disease. Don’t surrender yourself, stay firm and move ahead. Suicide is not the only option to run away. The doctors and people affected with HIV must spread awareness about the disease. This will one day change the mind-set of the people.”