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International News

India's Isolated HIV Victims Find Solace in Marriage

June 22, 2009

Many of India's some 2.5 million people living with HIV/AIDS are ostracized by their communities, prompting some to establish marriage agencies. The Gujarat Marriage Bureau for People Living with AIDS was the first of its kind when it started in 2005; eight similar agencies now exist across India.

Those who register with agencies are required to make a full disclosure, including family information, complete medical history, and economic status. "Everything should be crystal clear before the wedding," said Rasik Bhua, a coordinator at the Gujarat agency. "We provide counseling sessions to ensure that the couple is mature enough to handle health-related problems."

One couple Bhua's agency assisted, Ravi and Nima, say the experience has helped them endure the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS in India. "My father disowned me when I told him about my disease," said Ravi, who contracted HIV from a sex worker. "I was lonely and needed a companion to live and enjoy the last few years of my life," he said. His wife Nima was infected by her first husband, who died in 2006. "I felt cheated and wanted to commit suicide after my husband died but I decided to marry again and work for the widows of HIV patients," she said.

According to Radhika Samant, a Mumbai-based AIDS doctor, marriage between HIV-infected persons can help prevent the virus' spread. Marriage provides people with the disease not just companionship, but also can offer them practical benefits such as mutual medication monitoring and cost-sharing of treatment.

The pressure to marry in India is very strong, and HIV-positive people may succumb to their parents' wishes even though they are aware of the risks to their future spouse and children. "The government should be promoting this," Samant said of HIV marriage registries.

Back to other news for June 2009

Adapted from:
Agence France Presse
06.15.2009; Rupam Jain Nair

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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