I am Vennila, I am a 29 year old woman living with my three sisters in vepanamputhur village few kms away from Namakkal district in Tamil Nadu. My father is in real estate business and my mother a house wife. I got married in 1997, when I was doing completing my graduation in arts. My husband owned a lorry and was also driving it at times. I have a 9 year old son. Currently, I am working as In-charge Peer Counsellor in Treatment Counselling Centre.
In 2001 my husband was very sick, he was tested and found to be HIV positive. The doctors asked me and my son to take the test too. I was found HIV positive and my son was negative. When they told me I was HIV+, I thought it is probably a kind of blood group. During the counselling given to me at voluntary counselling and testing center (VCTC) they explained that what is HIV and what it does to my body.
I was in complete shock and even before I could understand the implications of the test in my life my husband passed away – it only took two months time. In all those times of sadness there was one comfort – my son’s HIV status is negative.
After the death of my husband, my in-laws were not supportive and were not willing to share the property with me and my son. My parents being educated and aware of HIV/AIDS supported me. I took shelter in my parents’ home, till date they continue to support me.
For me, the biggest challenge was accepting my own HIV status – as after my husband’s death, I believed that there is no purpose in living. My son was my only hope and reason to continue to live. My mother, who is my biggest strength, motivated me to get qualified better. I voluntarily worked for an NGO Anbukarangal as an out reach worker providing service for PLHIV in 2001. I joined a support group of people living with HIV – HIV Ullor Nala Sangam (HUNS) in 2003. This was a moving experience, I had friends who were positive too and I felt that I am not alone. When INP+ became part of the first consortium to support treatment program of the government, by virtue of being the staff at HUNS was initiated into ACT project in 2005. As I was a good speaker and made friends easily, they chose me to be the peer treatment Counsellor.
After joining Treatment Counselling Centre, my first training on Treatment Education was EHS’s counsellors/social worker training on ART & Adherence provided in early 2006. I was trained as the master trainer through the trainings of EngenderHealth Society (Enable Health Society was earlier known as EngenderHealth Society) focusing on HIV treatment education and counselling under the Global Fund supported Project. I also was part of the follow up training which was provided in last 2007. Training in my mother tongue Tamil helped me and my team to improve our counselling on ART, adherence, side effects, resistance and positive living to PLHIV’s accessing our centre. The follow up training helped me to understand the various opportunistic infections and the second line drugs.
The knowledge and information gained through EHS’s trainings, first helps me to give the best counselling to PLHIVs on ART, opportunistic infections and the second line drugs. Secondly the training also made me address my own issues regarding treatment adherence and has helped me live a better quality of life. Being a role model meant that I should practice what I preach. I think that Treatment Education for PLHIV (Peer People) is the most important aspect of EngenderHealth Society’s training.
Living with HIV for many years, I would like to say that if one has proper information, HIV is like any other long term illness like Diabetes or Hypertension – we can also continue to live just like others. Life is the same for everyone – a varied mixture of happiness and sorrow. As a positive person, I am able to think positively at any point of time , even in the worst situation, my confidence level can equal or is even much better than a person without HIV.
My aspirations are high; I want to be a role model for the entire HIV positive community in the country or may be even the world. I am currently on first line drugs for HIV. I take it as if it is my only option, I am completely dedicated in my adherence to the drugs so that I can postpone taking the 2PndP line drugs as far as possible. I am hopeful that I can see my son graduating from college and making his life better- so it is my aspirations that keeps me going, I don’t miss my drugs.
I try to be cheerful always, I believe that anybody who has been born should not bother if they would live for 5 years or 50 years, they should live happily and make other feel happy. I was a simple village woman, my house and my family was my boundary, nothing existed beyond them. My life with HIV has taught me to move beyond these boundaries and while taking care of my son, I am also able to help people like me – who are HIV positive to live healthy lives.