Salute the mother
MOTHER’S DAY should include HIV-positive women in celebrations to create awareness and fight the stigma, writes S.S. KAVITHA
In seclusion Looking for support
“Amma do not cry…believe me, you will be alright and you will be with us for a longer time…” These soothing words from her 11 year old daughter Gowri, makes Mallika pull herself up. For the last five years she has been egging herself on to live.
“Mother symbolizes warmth, connotes care and epitomises sacrifice she nurtures a child’s physical and emotional growth, nurses illness, eases failures and teaches them to tread on the path of success. She instils values among her children and now it our turn to return that hope and love so that she can lead a fear-free life,” says Gowri, who stays in an orphanage along with her eight-year-old brother.
Gowri is not unaware of Mother’s Day celebrated globally on May 13. Rather nonchalantly she says, “I need a day to celebrate my mother’s motherhood.
I am a child of HIV positive parents and most children I know live away from their mothers. They should be given a chance to come together and express their love for each other. We need such a day.”
Bagirathi, another child of a positive mother, says that India has a tradition of recognising mothers for their strength and compassion and unconditional love they shower on their children. “Now, it is the turn of the children to become mothers of their mothers instilling courage and hope in them to lead an optimistic life,” she says, sadly adding that stigma is a powerful tool of social control that is used to marginalise, exclude and exercise power over individuals and ultimately result in their ‘death’.
Children of positive parents strongly feel they need a day of celebration to share pleasantries, leave behind all pains at least for a day and forget death momentarily.
Though most positive parents reveal their status to children, they are reluctant to do so to any other family member of outsider fearing discrimination of not only themselves but other family members too.
But they are willing to congregate in a place and make it a day of remembrance.
“We live a secluded life. If someone breaks the confidentiality taking it out of the AIDS care unit campus, we will surely suffer hostility. Ignorance about HIV is so severe that people are frightened. And frightened people do not behave rationally. We may be even driven out of our own home and suffer discrimination at the hands of our own parents,” says Aruna.
After Rajeswari’s husband kicked the bucket, she came to know that her husband was HIV positive. Later she discovered she too had contracted the disease and was so embarrassed that she kept it a secret. Since she has health care facilities available easily, she continues to keep the information under wraps even after five years. But she admits that the fear of the secret leaking someday is hard on her.
For Rajeswari and her ilk who lead a secluded life, celebrating Mother’s Day is out of question. The occasion may bring them into limelight and yet again push them back into a world of darkness in the form of discrimination.
Does Mother’s Day then serve a purpose for these positive women?
Yes, the day should act as a platform to create awareness among mothers on the importance of pre-marital HIV screening, says Thaila, who got infected from her husband.
It is said that in 99 per cent cases, women contract the disease from their husbands. But the men die leaving their wives to suffer pain and discrimination in society. It is ironic that a society which is so hell bent upon matching horoscopes before nuptial alliances fails to check on health details of prospective partners.
“Stigma bogs down pre-marital HIV screening. But positive mothers should take on the cudgels to make pre-marital HIV screening mandatory for matrimonial agreement,’ says Thaila, who lost her husband few months after marriage.
She also says that almost all positive mothers can be grouped under young widow category. This category should not be allowed to expand. Pre-marital HIV screening should be made compulsory either voluntarily or under the law,” she pleads.
While some might scoff at the concept of Mother’s Day being popularised for commercial reasons, others feel this is the day for expressing your indebtedness to Maa and create awareness on pre-marital HIV screening.
Though not as hyped as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day is steadily turning into important accepted concept in Indian society with much ease as ‘Maa’ has been the leitmotif of Indian sensibility.
These HIV positive mothers continue to lead a secluded life. Not primarily for any fault of their own but because of errant ways of their husbands and apathetic society around.
It is high time the government intervenes and speeds up their measures that help them join the main stream.
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