“I enjoy being the messenger for God in terms of letting people know about HIV and AIDS.”
Within fifteen days of his marriage he tested HIV positive. He was almost sure that his wife would have also got the infection for no fault of her’s. She used to keep crying for hours together. The doctor who counseled her gave her the option to leave. He would have gone in depression, or even committed suicide, but he kept himself stable, and today he is the President of a CBO,Madhya Pradesh Network of People living with HIV/AIDS.
Meet Mr Manoj Verma, who is a living example of how a person can change his life with his will power and positive mental attitude. He was born in a farmer family in Sultanpur (UP) His mother used to stitch clothes to augment the income of the family. Family circumstances forced him to drop out of school after class VIII .He had developed interest in stitching and wanted to be a tailor. He kept wandering from place to place, as he could not make up his mind. He finally came to Indore where one of his uncles had settled down after retiring from BSF.
He started working as a tailor to earn his living. He got married in 2003.Within a few days he was having fever which could not be controlled by common medicines. He finally went in for blood tests and other investigations. There was a lurking doubt in his mind that he may have contacted HIV AIDS. In fact he was told by the girl with whom he had illicit relations that she has tested HIV positive. The girl died within a month. The inevitable happened -Manoj tested HIV positive.
On hearing about such shocking news, his wife was thrown off balance. She cried her heart out, but later reconciled, and regained her composure. When people told her to get separated, she retorted “what if he had developed cancer after marriage? “His in-laws did not even have an inkling of the fact that Manoj was having HIV AIDS. Even after five years when the couple remained issueless, they kept on pestering him .In 2008 Manoj adopted a girl, setting an example for society.
A ray of hope came in the life of Manoj in May 2006 when he came in contact with Mr KK Abraham and Mr Naresh Yadav through an NGO “Vishwas” in Indore, during a workshop on people living with HIV AIDS. They motivated him to form a network of such people and work for a good cause. The inner feeling of guilt was replaced with confidence. Medication along with multivitamins gave him the energy to continue his work. In fact medicines worth about Rs 4000 per month are given free of cost to HIV AIDS patients by the ART center hospitals on the basis of CD4 blood test report.
Manoj Verma is now the President of Madhya Pradesh Network of people living with HIV AIDS. (MPNP+)It is a Community based organization, which functions under the Indian network of people living with HIV AIDS. Its objective is to spread awareness about HIV AIDS, clear the myths, identify effected people and bring them into the mainstream of society, by developing positive thinking and provide psychosocial support, and work for their acceptance in society. “HIV patients also have a right to live with dignity and peace, like other members of society” adds Manoj.
People living with HIV AIDS and their families have been subjected to various forms of stigma and discrimination.MPNP+provides them a much needed safe environment to come together without the fear of being judged. They are able to discuss their HIV status freely, as they have accepted it.This removes the initial fear and stigma, and paves the way for empowerment. Although they cannot be cured, people are provided with enough information and support to make decisions. They are encouraged to participate in various activities which boost their self-confidence.
When asked to give a message to the youth, Manoj said “be aware, be cautious and practice safe sex”.Talking about HIV AIDS people he advised them, “remain busy and don’t worry, take timely medicines and nutritious food”MPNP+ is presently working in ten districts of Madhya Pradesh.Manoj plans to cover all the fifty one districts in the next five years.
Another pioneering and revolutionary step which has been undertaken by MPNP+ is the marriage of a male and female both suffering from HIV AIDS. Surprisingly, a child born out of such marriage has been quite normal, which is a big breakthrough. Apart from this MPNP+ has been providing legal aid and counseling to people living with HIV AIDS.
(The above success story is based on the interview of Mr Manoj Verma with Maj Pradeep Khare)