PLHIV and Woman: Powerfully powerless


She is a person living with HIV (PLHIV) so let us include her in our discussions. She will be representing an otherwise excluded section of society. That is how a person living with HIV is included in major strategic and inclusive processes of state or civil society initiatives. Being HIV positive and coming out with the health condition is a huge difference. Once a person with AIDS is open about his or her condition there is another level of labelling and discrimination which encircles the PLHIV. Only celebrities and social activists can be open about their condition, for rest of the population a culture of silence and ignorance is the best form of defence from all forms of discrimination. HIV and AIDS patients suffer much more after they come out with their health condition due to fear, immaturity and undue assumptions.

Women in general and transgendered women in particular often face a huge amount of stigma and discrimination when it comes to the HIV positive health condition. There is a general tendency to believe that all transgendered, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer persons are prone to HIV and AIDS health conditions. Somehow people are not concerned whether a gay person is having cough and cold or not or whether a queer person is having toothache. But more prominently when it comes to HIV and AIDS issues all persons belonging to alternate sexualities are invariably included and oriented. Sexual orientation cannot be the only reason for contracting HIV and AIDS. It is a health condition which is prevalent more amongst straight persons and children as well may be some studies can prove it. People are otherwise so allergic to discussions which are centred on sex education, issues of sexuality or even discussion around sexual preferences but when it comes to HIV and AIDS every age group and even religious institutions would encourage workshops to promote abstinence and preventive measures.

Atleast HIV and AIDS discussions have opened up avenues for youth to share their views openly; otherwise age subjugation is so intense that in the name of respect, tradition and family honour young people are prohibited from speaking aloud anything to do with sexuality. World AIDS Day has received so much publicity as the biggest endorsements and sports events are organised to commemorate this day. Sports could perhaps heal the mental agony of PLHIV and AIDS or may be the assumption is that sportspersons are more vulnerable to HIV and AIDS through inject able drugs and other such health practices. Sometimes it also mocks the PLHIV to show them that if they were healthier they could be as fit as the sportspersons.

Most PLHIV who are located in rural areas do not even get the basic access to a thorough assessment of their health condition. Some of them hide their condition due to lack of resources to travel long distances or also due to the social stigma attached to such a disease. Sometimes the awareness drives are also lopsided and the onus of the spread of the disease always falls on the women and transgendered women. People show that having multiple partners and having unsafe sex causes HIV and AIDS and such activities could be devastating for the women who are mostly the faceless partners and cause of spreading the disease. Being a woman living with HIV and AIDS in her adolescence and again in her adulthood will hold diverse set of vulnerabilities. Whether a woman has contracted the HIV status through blood transfusion or at birth, society stigmatises women with character assassination and labelling her with notoriety regarding her sexuality and sexual behaviour.

A woman’s strength lies in her acceptance of her own self as she is and that is what makes her powerful and her HIV positive identity also makes her powerful in a way. But such an image is powerless when it does not have enough social security, non-discrimination and human rights to wipe out all forms of discrimination attached to such an image. Being transgendered or being a woman cannot be always an excuse to label someone of being vulnerable to having HIV and AIDS. Anyone irrespective of their sexual orientation can be prone to HIV and AIDS.

Samhita Barooah

Samhita Barooah

Dr. Samhita Barooah
 is Educator and QueerUp Founder