Today, we would like to honour the struggles and achievements of women who faced obstacles, fought with the odds, yet made their struggles their strengths! These are stories of three powerful women who have lived with HIV for years and are helping many others to live a life of dignity.

Today, on Aug 26, Women’s Equality Day, we remind ourselves of the need to be sensitive to such issues, support to create an inclusive environment, and connect women who need help to opportunities and resources. We are grateful to Milana for their work with HIV patients and for providing psycho-social care, counselling, skill training and nutritional support. With the help of our CSR partner, United Way Bengaluru feels gratified to support Milana.

Taruna’s (name changed) story

Being a single mother and an HIV patient has thrown up several changes. I felt betrayed by my husband when I was diagnosed with HIV. He infected me. He lost the battle to the death, but I had to fight it alone as a pregnant woman. My son became a ray of hope in life. There was no way of looking back and getting defeated. I came to Milana for counselling. Milana became my family, and since then, I have been a member of this organisation.

As a trained nurse, I knew my life had a greater purpose. I work at the HIV unit of a hospital. I am a living example for patients suffering from the same condition. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, and my advice to everyone is to focus only on the positive sides and move ahead in life. Be your role model, and help to lift others along with you.

Chanda’s (name changed) story

At the age of 19, I got married. Life was beautiful. But soon after my son was born, our lives changed completely. My child was sick, and later my husband, child and I were diagnosed with HIV. My husband was responsible, but my son and I had to suffer the most, all by ourselves. I lost my husband and raised my son single headedly. I struggled with stigma from my family and society. I was judged all the time. My son also had to fight cancer. The road ahead of us became more and more difficult. But I did not stop fighting. My son is better and working with a private firm.

Today I am an ANM and associated with Milana as their health coordinator. Our mindsets need to change; society needs to change. For me, there are three key things which can make a difference in the lives of people like me – Support in every form (medical, moral, acceptance); 2. Guidance to help people manage their health; and 3. Information and awareness.

Reena’s (name changed) story

My own people abandoned me. With four toddlers, I was left alone. I had no family support, financial support or moral support. My children faced discrimination in school. But my loneliness and suffering became my strength, and I fought. Milana saved me, showed me the path, and I made it my mission to be the voice of other women like me. I represented the voice of the victims in the parliament, travelled aboard and spoke in global forums to educate people about HIV and the myths around it.

I have been living with aids for the last 30 years, and today I feel proud that I am not ashamed of my condition. I feel pleased that I positively impact the lives of many like me who need to be heard and accepted.