An old school mate, asked me if I would like volunteer for the Positive Womens’ Network. I readily accepted the offer. I have to admit that I was a little nervous the first time I visited the center where the network is housed, not because of the people that lived there but because my friends had not arrived yet and I didn’t know anyone. Lucky for me, they were expecting my arrival and from the moment I stepped in, I felt the warmth and happiness radiate from everyone there, from making sure I was comfortable to making me a cup of tea and talking to me avidly.
You see, everyone at the center including the founder Princey Mangalika are people living with HIV.
The center’s aim is to enhance the physical and mental health of PLHIV, protecting their social rights and identifying and improving their skills and introducing effective income generation schemes to upgrade the living standards of those afflicted and their families.
They also contribute to reducing HIV/AIDS infection trends by conducting comprehensive awareness programmes and visiting PLHIV who are at the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) in Colombo, providing meals, clothing and other requirements, provide medicines and travelling costs for hospital visits for checkups, thereby ensuring and encouraging members to access proper medical care as well as undertaking final rites and funeral arrangements, when members are disowned by their families.
Personally, it was the first time that I had the chance to meet PLHIV and it was inspiring to say the least, to hear all of their stories and connect on an emotional level. People who live with HIV in Sri Lanka, or for that matter anywhere in the world deserve to be treated equal to how we treat those that are not afflicted by it. Stigma is never a good thing but it exists. It also begs the point to create awareness on the prevention of HIV in Sri Lanka.
Anyone can become infected with HIV and promoting awareness through basic HIV and AIDS education is key. There is no need to be ignorant and live in the dark, thinking that this is someone else’s problem and that it can never happen to you. If you do not have HIV, you need to be responsible and arm yourself with both knowledge and protection.
PLHIV need knowledge and support to protect their own health and also to ensure that they don’t transmit HIV to others. This column was written by a STITCH volunteer to find out how you can be a part of it please email email@example.com or visit www.stitchmovement.com