In the Midst of Sisters, a New Bud Blossoms
Anouba Mayol means ‘new bud’ in Meitei, the official language of my home state, Manipur. Anouba Mayol is also the name of the support group I belong to. I am 29 years old, and like the other eight women in my support group, I am living with HIV and was widowed due to drug use, HIV and AIDS.
When I met my husband a few years ago, I was struck by how handsome he was. He worked in a small family owned photo-studio, and we were very happy in each other’s company. About a year after we got married, he started complaining of frequent chest pains. One day, he left home with his family members and I later learned they had taken him to Guwahati to get treated for his chest pain. It was hard to shake off the feeling that I wasn’t getting the whole story.
I finally persuaded one of my husband’s close friends to tell me what he knew. He swore me to secrecy and revealed that my husband was HIV positive and had been injecting drugs for a while. The news absolutely crushed me but I didn’t disclose what I knew to my husband or my family. Eventually, my husband passed away and his family blamed me for his death. They tortured and threatened me, and forced me to move back to my parents’ home. I haven’t visited my husband’s home since then.
Life dealt me an even larger blow when my daughter and I tested positive for HIV. Depression seemed to take over my life and I couldn’t sleep at night from an overwhelming fear of dying. During this time, I was approached by a peer educator from the Social Awareness Service Organisation (SASO) who counseled and assured me that the organization would provide any support that my daughter or I needed. It was during this time that I felt motivated to join Anouba Mayol, a support group where all the members learned from each other’s life experiences and gained information on sexually transmitted infections, prevention of parent to child transmission, and the importance of positive living. Gradually, as our group members gained a stronger sense of confidence and self-reliance, we started holding meetings by ourselves with no outreach worker or peer educator present.
With the support of SASO, our group also initiated a few income generation activities. I was given INR 1,000 to make silk thread. Each member of our group also contributes INR 10 each month to the group fund, which is used for loans on a rotational basis.
The change that I have experienced in my life because of my support group has been invaluable – we are like a group of sisters who are always there for each other in times of need. I now feel empowered and will do everything in my power to lead a healthy and long life especially for my daughter who also receives nutritional and educational support from SASO.
Anouba Mayol – I feel like the name of our support group symbolizes the new sense of hope that my daughter and I have been gifted with. After a very long time, I feel happy when I think about what lies ahead for both of us.
The India HIV/AIDS Alliance in partnership with SASO, implements the Chanura Kol project in Manipur. This project is funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation and serves to expand interventions to decrease HIV transmission and reduce drug relapse among female injection drug users (FIDUs).