Terminally ill AIDS patients and HIV carriers in this hilly district, long treated as outcasts, have teamed up to fight the odds and the disease.
Their organisation - Himachal Pradesh Voluntary HIV Positive Network - has 14 women, five children and a man as members. It aims to coordinate with other HIV carriers in the state, form a state-level body and fight for their rights.
AdvertisementA nine-day workshop for these patients that ended Friday seems to have changed their lives.
The credit for organising them goes to journalist-turned-social worker Rajendra Verma, who has formed an NGO for their sake.
Hamirpur seems to have come a long way ever since it discovered its first AIDS patient in 1992. All doors were shut on him, even his wife and two children were spurned.
Healthcare was not an issue then. There was complete lack of information and understanding about the disease, and the patients' woes just multiplied till they breathed their last.
But the story is changing. Several voluntary groups are stepping in to help HIV carriers and AIDS patients.
One of the HIV carriers who attended the workshop is Vijaya (name changed).
Life has not treated Vijaya kindly. She contracted AIDS from her husband some years ago. After her husband's death five years ago, she was thrown out of her house and forced to live in a cowshed.
Vijaya is considered a bad omen by most. But she lives on for the sake of her child.
Another HIV carrier Rama (name changed) has to fend for herself and her two children, both of whom are also carriers of the deadly disease. Rama contracted the disease from her husband 10 years ago.
Rama told IANS: "The nine days at the camp have changed my life. I have learnt how to deal with society. I will fight the disease with a positive attitude and make sure my children get the best."
Verma, the man who changed it all, told IANS: "With meditation and spirituality, these people will be able to live life with a positive attitude."
That's not all. "The patients will be examined every third Sunday of the month at the district hospital. A religious function will also be organised that day," he said.
Verma is positive that with a nutritious diet they will be able to fight the disease and increase their life span.