- POSTED: 16 Dec 2013 17:57
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A non-governmental organisation (NGO), specialising in the matchmaking of HIV-positive people, has taken a small but significant step to prove that HIV-positive people can also lead a normal married life.
NEW DELHI: Millions of people with HIV and AIDS continue to suffer from the shame and stigma attached to the disease.
But in India, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) working with HIV-positive people in the western state of Gujarat has taken a small but significant step to prove that HIV-positive people can also lead a normal life.
Alka and Rasik Bhai Bhuva, a HIV-positive couple, got married through a marriage bureau which specialises in the matchmaking of HIV-positive people.
In a country where unmarried women often lose social standing, the stigma of being HIV-positive and the isolation can be extreme.
It was this agony, which turned Alka's search for a match to the HIV Marriage Bureau in the western Indian state of Gujarat.
She now calls her union a love marriage as she fell in love with her husband and life thereafter.
"I have been married for eight years now. I have all the comforts and am extremely happy with my husband," she said.
While their marriage is a rare combination of contemporary thinking and the traditional Indian notion of arranging marriages, there are many among India's 2.4 million HIV-affected people, who continue to live in solitude, oblivious of this source of happiness.
Even though India has taken measures that have reduced new HIV infections by 57 per cent since 2001, it has not been able to back it up with anti-discrimination legislation, despite the Law Ministry clearing it in October this year.
Nestled in India's city of diamond merchants, Surat, the HIV marriage bureau is an attempt to overcome this discrimination.
Daksha Patel, founder of the HIV Marriage Bureau, said: "There used to be a lot of family and peer pressure on HIV-positive people to get married. Some families even pressured them to marry anywhere without revealing their HIV-positive status. But those affected were well aware to not hide their HIV-positive status from their would-be spouses."
However, the bureau has some problems.
Most of the match-seekers insist on finding a match from their caste only. In addition, the bride-seekers out-number the groom-seekers with only four women out of the 70 people presently registered with the bureau.
For the 140 couples, who have been united through the marriage bureau over the last eight years, it is nothing short of a chance to lead a normal life.
However, those still suffering in isolation can only hope for a time when a more informed society with enforceable anti-discriminatory legislation will finally end their sense of shame.