Suman, Mumbai

I got married when I was sixteen. When I was pregnant with my first child, I was tested for HIV and found out I was positive. My husband already knew, because after his previous marriage, he started drinking and visiting brothels. He told me this only after we got married. I’m sure he already knew his status because when the hospital asked him to get tested, he refused. If you are HIV-positive and you get married, then you need to tell your partner. It is their right to know.

To my husband, my life was finished. I did not see it that way. I was not stressed. I thought it was like when people get Diabetes and take pills and continue to live. I tried to make my husband understand this, but he just drank more because he had allowed me to get HIV. In the middle of this, I had my baby boy.

I went on to have two more children. The first two were not infected, but my third son was HIV-positive. I found myself at the hospital all the time because my husband and son were so ill. Because of lack of money, I couldn’t buy any pills for myself. I was so tired that I fell ill too, and we were all in and out of the hospital. Eventually, my husband passed away. I went to live with my parents. It was very difficult for me because I was trying to get treatment for my son. Doctors would not treat him until I gave them money, despite my telling them I did not have any. A man saw my struggle and paid the Rs. 500 ($10 US) necessary for my child’s medicine, but my son died by the time we got his treatment.

I was so tired and was not eating. Eventually, my mom and dad made me realize that I had to let go. I still had two children, and I discovered my husband had been married before and had three children from that marriage. Those children’s mother had died, and I began to care for them. Now I think of his children as mine.

I began to go to the hospital to get treated again, even though the people there tried to chase me away and made it very difficult for me to get medicine. They said I needed a ration card to get medication, which I did not have. I met someone and asked him to give me a ration card because it was urgent. He gave it to me, but when I returned to the hospital with it, the counselor demanded to know how I got one on such short notice. I was very angry and said, “Who are you? Why do you trouble me, saying there’s no medicine and that you need my name on a ration card? A person can die and still you don’t give them medicine?” From then onwards, they started to behave better.

Soon after, I met social workers who showed me the way to live, helped me understand more about HIV, how to take care of myself, and how to speak up for myself. One of them urged me to take my first counselor course too. I realized that I got HIV for a reason and decided that I would work within the HIV arena. However much I could make people understand, I would.

Now I am very happy. I take care of five children and I feel like I can live my whole life. It’s not like if I have HIV I will die. As long as I have life, I will live it fully.

About Through Positive Eyes

Through Positive Eyes [] tells the story of HIV/AIDS at the end of the third decade of the epidemic, when potent antiretroviral medication has been devised, but when treatment access is far from universal. Through Positive Eyes is an attempt to address key themes of the AIDS epidemic: widespread stigma, extreme social inequality, and limited access to lifesaving medication. The project is based on the belief that challenging stigma against people living with HIV/AIDS is the most effective method for combating the epidemic—and that art is a powerful way to do this. HIV-positive people take part in this unique initiative, creating powerful personal photo essays. From these images, we create local and international advocacy materials including exhibitions, short films, and website. Read more about Through Positive Eyes at

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