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To Be or Not to Be

30-year-old Urmila (name changed to protect her identity), was diagnosed as HIV positive along with her husband seven years ago.

To Be or Not to Be

Just nine months after being detected, she lost her husband to the illness. She was pregnant at that time and delivered a baby boy. Because he was delivered in the hospital, the baby got the medicine he needed to prevent the transmission of the HIV virus from the mother to the child.

Religiously taking her medications, she vowed to keep herself and her baby healthy. But the fear of being all alone in this world with no support system and no income source, constantly played on her mind.

"There was this constant tension. How will I bring up this child alone? If something happened to me how will he survive? There was a need for a caretaker someone who will nurture and care for him? It’s then I met Raj. He earns a living by driving. He was kind to me. Despite my condition he loved me and wanted to be with me. He accepted me and my son into his life. We were in love and decided to marry. 

Pregnant with her second child, Urmila went to the hospital for her delivery with the same expectations.

"For my second delivery I went to the same hospital. But in the rush my medical case papers weren’t with me, I thought my sister had submitted it, later I came to know she hadn’t, so my delivery was treated as a normal pregnancy and I was sent home. I was not aware of this paper mishap at that time. I thought the hospital took care of everything. So it didn’t occur to me to double check about the medicines," says Urmila.

She was discharged from the hospital without her child receiving the life-saving drug. Till date Urmila is unsure of the HIV status of her two-year-old daughter.

Swaying to her mother-in-law’s insatiable desire to have a male grandson from her lineage or to consider her condition and not risk life with another pregnancy, the dilemma was soon put to rest when Urmila decided to put her body through another risky pregnancy. Nine months pregnant, Urmila had no other option but to return to the hospital she had her other two deliveries, but this time she was confronted with much hostility from the hospital staff.

They yelled at me for having another child. "They said 'You are not a priority we can’t admit you here for a third delivery'," says Urmila.

Hoping the hospital would change their mind, Urmila, circled the hospital several times, but her relentless efforts resulted in no change.

"Stigma discrimination exists at all levels when dealing with HIV even in the healthcare system. People who are empowered will demand their rights to be met, but the vulnerable uneducated and not empowered people get turned back and denied their basic rights. That is why training and counselling for PLHIVs(People Living with HIV) is very important so that they are empowered and demand what is rightfully theirs. In her final days of pregnancy before her due date, she lived in a period of uncertainty and anxiety.

World Vision India understanding her sensitive situation empowered Urmila with information she needed to have a safe and institutionalized delivery.

"World Vision staff told me the names of other hospitals I could go to and deliver my baby. They told me that I had to be firm because no one or hospital can deny me admission. They guided my husband what he should do in case of an emergency. The very next day I developed labour pains and was rushed to the hospital that we had been informed about," she says.  

Urmila, was able to get admitted in the hospital and have an institutionalized delivery. Her new born baby received the life-saving drug preventing her from getting infected by the HIV virus.

"I disclosed my status to the hospital. They took me in and I delivered a baby girl there. I am happy that my child is getting the medicine she needs to protect her. The doctor has advised me to breastfeed my baby for 6 months and then shift to bottled milk. My baby is on the life saving medicines. The doctor comes to give her the drops twice a day. They medicines will go on till 6months," says Urmila.

World Vision was able to counsel Urmila’s husband, Raj (name changed to protect identity) and convince him to get himself tested for HIV. It is mandatory for the spouse to get tested every 2-3 months and also use contraceptives. The test results reveal that Raj is not HIV positive. Timely interventions do make a world of a difference.

World Vision also provided Urmila’s family with one month supply of dry ration so that she is able to eat nutritious food and stay healthy and the baby healthy. The dry ration included rice, wheat, oil, sugar, kidney beans, chickpeas, 2 types of lentils and soya bean. 

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