New Delhi: Shiba Phurailatpam, an HIV survivor, has been fighting for the rights of HIV positive people for the past 20 years. A drug user during his youth, Phurailatpam probably was infected through shared needles, along with many of his friends.
"I have seen people, family putting this guy in a small room in their house and pushing the food through that hole underneath the door, saying you eat now. And that's that happened, that was horrible, and I have seen lots of kids less than 1-year-old thrown out by the in-laws because both parents died of AIDS," said Phurailatpam.
An HIV survivor for the past 20 years, Shiba Phurailatpam recounts a tough journey especially with the absence of treatment which made matters worse.
"20 years ago, people didn't know anything about HIV. Doctors and other medical people told us if you have only positive you have 5-10 years to live," he recounts.
But even with limited information, awareness, zero-support and faltering hope, Phurailatpam didn't choose anonymity. Instead, at all of 23, he became one of the first few to fight for the rights of HIV-positive citizens.
He said, "When you walk out on the street when people look at you like shit, sorry for the language, but you know that's what prevents people from coming out. But we were quite brave, I would say, we weren't really afraid of people finding out that we are positive. We used to go out in the community and would mobilise the local people in the community. We would talk to them about drug use, HIV. MSMs, sexworkers, practices."
Today, Phurailatpam works with the Asia Pacific Network of Positive People that spans across Thailand and other South East Asian nations.
"Getting treatment from the government, hospitals was a huge step and that's why we are here today. Otherwise we all would have gone long ago. So many of friends are gone because the treatment was so expensive that they simply couldn't afford it. Having said that we still have a lot to do. There are a number of issues, we see people are having trouble to access the second line of treatment. So even if the treatment is free the availability is already so limited," Phurailatpam said.
When the government declared free treatment for HIV-positive people in 2006, Phurailatpam knew a huge step in the right direction had been taken. And although the road ahead is long, he knows there is light at the end of the tunnel.
"I wanna continue living like I am now and be a good father, I have 2-year-old son. And be a good person for those people who are in need, that's what I want," Phurailatpam added.