My name is Santa Ram Tharu. I am 32 years old and live in a village called Kopawa in Kapilvastu district in southern Nepal. I am married and have 3 sons. There are six people in my family including my parents. I am from a farming family with a low economic condition. Before I became infected with HIV, I used to migrate to India from time to time to earn money to provide for my family.
When I first came into contact with Sakriya Sewa Samaj, I was suffering from chest pain and losing my appetite. My physical condition was very poor. Gradually I was losing weight and getting weaker. I had already visited many health clinics to get physical check-ups, but the doctors had not been able to diagnose my problem.
Some people said that I had a disease called AIDS, but I didn’t know anything about that disease. I was very much discouraged when I heard people talk about AIDS, because they said there was no hope of living a long life if you had it.
Sakriya staff came to my house and invited me to join their care and support program, but I said no. I was afraid of the social stigma and discrimination of belonging to an HIV support group. But when they invited me a second time, after I had attended a long counseling session with them, I decided to accept their support.
At that time I was suffering from a cough and fever. After doing a general assessment of my physical condition, Sakriya referred me to Palpa Mission Hospital for further investigation and treatment. The doctors at that hospital diagnosed me with a double infection of TB and HIV. For about six months I took TB medicine. Then I started antiretroviral treatment. Gradually I started eating more food. My condition improved and I was almost as well as I was before.
I am from the Tharu community, an indigenous tribal group. Due to the lack of knowledge and practice, it was very difficult for me to talk about my problem with other people. Sakriya provided me a platform where I learned how to talk to others. I have been provided with various types of capacity building training. Now I am the secretary of the self-help group they invited me to join, and I have the capacity to lead discussions in our meeting. Sakriya has also provided me with other types of support, for example, business counseling and seed money.
Now I have started a bicycle repairing service with the seed money from Sakriya. These days I am very much interested in group activities that have brought a big change in my attitudes and now I have a new life that is full of hope.
Sakriya Sewa Samaj, a partner of MCC Nepal, supports people living with HIV & AIDS through advocacy, community-based care and peer support groups.