Though Stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV has been documented, the myths surrounding HIV /AIDS always take precedence. And so while at school we were briefed on HIV/AIDS, the issue as such was one of fear and most of these people are invisible or deliberately invisiblized. And so, for me meeting Radhamani, the popular host of “Chiguridha Badaku”, was an eye-opener.
Radhamma as she is popularly called at the station is wise beyond years. Ever smiling and soft-spoken, Radha is hardworking and pride herself on taking care of her family as a single woman. Radha’s husband was HIV+ but he was unaware of it till it was too late. In 2003, she lost her husband, and though shattered by her husband’s death, reached out to other people like her to keep her sanity. She started working with World Vision, an NGO for five years, counseling people.
In 2013, she had an opportunity to attend the “Community Women Broadcaster’s Workshop conducted by Radio Active CR 90.4 MHz, through CEMCA’s support. It was at this workshop, she felt that her voice is important and the need to reach out to the PLHIV community led her to volunteer at the station and eventually joined fulltime.
Chigurida Baduku literally translated means, a new life. And as is the norm at the station, she has a Program Committee of 15 members, who also call themselves as Task Force Team, to provide with programmatic inputs and feedback. They meet every month. The show goes on air every Monday, Tuesday and Friday.
Radha, is also actively involved with different other NGOs working on HIV issues and conducts awareness workshops across the city, in addition counseling the community on available schemes.
She exudes strength and always maintains a cheerful countenance, and so I was shocked when in one of our interactions, Radha mentioned is she is HIV+. Another important lesson that I learnt at Radio Active was to be non-judgmental. Radha takes pride in her work, and when quizzed the secret of her indomitable spirit she says, “My children and my work in community radio”.
Though Radha was fortunate enough to get the right help at the right time, there are so many people out there who are still living in darkness. More than 5000 children, in Karnataka alone, are tested positive for HIV and 60% of widows are HIV positive. The most common reason for the transmission of AIDS is sexual contact. Teenagers commonly fall under this category. The second most common reason for transmission is the use of infected syringes and then comes the mother to child transmission of this virus. What most people don’t understand is, that HIV virus does not necessarily lead to AIDS. That is the final stage, and with the right medication and nutrition, people can live a fairly healthy and self sustained life.
PLHIV people are real people with feeling, just like you and me. Stereotypes and ignorance, leads to discrimination which in turn makes one treat the subject like taboo. We must encourage more and more people to talk about the issue and not shy away. As Radha Mani puts it, “Be away from HIV, not people who have HIV.”
Rukaiyah is a final year BA Student at Jain University Rukaiyah’s interests are listening to music, reading and writing…