‘I waited all night for my report. Checked online every once in a while. When the report came and my result was positive, I thought it was all over. I put my life on hold there. Dropped studies, locked himself in his room, stopped communicating and even attempted self-immolation twice.’
This is the story of a young man Ahmed (pseudonym). ‘Since I am HIV positive and the purpose of giving a fake name is that the disease is still considered a taboo in our society. It is not accepted and I do not want to reveal my identity.’
Ahmed is currently the only HIV positive worker of the Punjab AIDS Control Programme. He got this job after quitting his first job due to his illness.
Ahmed told Independent Urdu: ‘I used to work in the private sector and things were normal until I told about myself. I had a colleague there whom I told about my life-threatening illness. I thought I would also inform him about this. He comforted me at that time but after a few days he filed a complaint against me.’
Ahmed said that when he came to the office after receiving a complaint, his chair was removed from the room where he used to sit every day.
Ahmad continued: ‘My partner came and told me that the director has called me to the room. When I went there, they asked me
Asked about my illness. At that point I wondered how they knew. I initially denied it but then they said that a co-worker had told them.’
Ahmed says that it was decided to leave the current branch and transfer to another branch. Their officer told them that this branch is too big and they can’t keep them here but can exchange them.
‘On hearing this, my question to him was that the people where you will send me will not have a problem with me? He said no, you have to be transferred. I just asked them to think for five minutes and after five minutes I tendered my resignation.’
After leaving this job, Ahmed decided that he would somehow work for those who, like him, were fighting the disease and had become disillusioned with life.
Ahmed said: ‘I thought I was a ray of hope for them. That’s why I started checking the website of Primary and Secondary Health Care of Punjab AIDS Control Program constantly to find a job on it.
Ahmed says that now there was also a question mark that since he was HIV positive, he would get a job here or not.
Ahmed said: ‘I tried and I applied for the job and I got shortlisted. Now I was worried about how to tell them that I am HIV-positive when I am also registered with them as an HIV-positive patient and if they find out, they will kick me out.’
Ahmed said that despite all these whispers, he went and gave the interview with full confidence. And senior officers of the organization were present to interview him.
At the end of the interview, when they asked me what was the purpose of my coming here, I told them that I myself was suffering from this disease. I want to come here to help people like me. The entire interviewing panel was surprised that I told my truth in front of everyone.’
Ahmed says that he did not want to lie. He said that he knows how sensitive HIV-positive patients are and the job is not easy for him with the disease of which he himself is an example.
Punjab AIDS Control Program Project Director Dr Muhammad Farooq Ahmed while talking to Independent Urdu said: ‘I have suggested to the Govt.
That these people should be given jobs after treatment. We have also approached the Social Welfare Department to bring them into the mainstream of life regularly.’
Dr. Farooq says that the Punjab Aids Control Program has given suggestions that these people should get business, make a shop and start small jobs. For this, the cooperation of the government and social welfare department is very important.
Ahmed is currently working with patients suffering from this disease in the Punjab AIDS Control Program. Educate them about this disease and its treatment. Listen to their grievances and try to solve their problems.
Narrating his story of contracting the disease to Independent Urdu, Ahmed said: ‘My HIV journey started in 2020. This year my mother had an operation. They needed blood so my blood sample was also taken. At that time I was told that I am HIV positive.’
Ahmed says that at that time he did not know anything about HIV or AIDS.
Ahmad went on to say: ‘After some time I got my test done again and I found out that I am confirmed and the word AIDS is now associated with me.’
He says that he was restless that night and every now and then he would check his report online and when the report came, he felt as if his life had ended. Ahmed locked himself in a room for six months. Stopped eating, stopped studying, even stopped talking to anyone at home and outside.
Ahmed says that he had no idea where to seek treatment. “I thought I would get medicine from a store or a private hospital, but later I found out that this disease is treated at the government level only.”
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Knowing this, Ahmed became more worried that if he gets treatment at the government level, the government will make his name public and everyone will know what disease he is suffering from.
When his relatives came to know about Ahmad’s illness, they advised his parents to publish an announcement in the newspaper that they had nothing to do with Ahmad.
Ahmad says: ‘Actually, we have this problem that when someone comes to know that someone has got this disease, they think that something bad must happen. We are not aware that this disease can occur in different ways. But my relatives did not understand this.’
According to his family, Ahmed’s presence will become a problem for the other children in the family.
Ahmed says: ‘My sisters especially my mother supported me. Whatever you want, mother never leaves you. But I have two brothers who still do not talk to me nor sit together. They think that I have spoiled their name.’
According to Ahmad, there is a very wrong impression among the public regarding HIV or AIDS that it is only caused by physical contact, whereas this virus can enter the human body in many ways.
Regarding how Ahmed got this virus, he said: ‘I remember that I got this problem from cutting my hair. I also had dental treatment, blood transfusions and haircuts. When you have such a big disease, your memory is working somewhere. I think I got this problem because of the barber.’
Ahmed is continuing his treatment with the virus and living his life like a normal person. He got married some time ago and his wife is free from this virus.
Ahmed said: ‘When I got married, I told my wife, her parents that I had this disease. My wife did not refuse to marry me even then. Yes, now if we plan to have a baby, I will have to consult my doctor and take certain medicines. After which we will be able to have a healthy baby but for now my wife and I have not thought about expanding our family.’
Project Director of Punjab AIDS Control Program Dr. Muhammad Farooq Ahmed told Independent Urdu that 37 thousand people are currently suffering from HIV virus in Punjab province.
Among them, six thousand people have lost their lives, while seven to eight thousand people have gone into hiding after knowing about this disease and we are continuing to search for them. He said that there are 27 thousand patients who are getting their treatment regularly.