New Delhi: December 1 is World AIDS Day and India has nearly 2.3 million HIV people living with HIV/AIDS. Shiba Phurailatpam, an HIV/AIDS survivor and activist for more than 20 years now said, "I have seen a 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. That was horrible and I have seen lots of kids less than an year-old thrown out by the in-laws because both parents died of AIDS."
An HIV survivor for the past 20 years, Shiba recounts a tough journey. A drug user during his youth, Phurailatpam probably was infected through shared needles, along with many of his friends. And the absence of treatment made matters worse. "20 years ago, people didn't know anything about HIV. Doctors and other medical people told us if you are only positive you have five-ten years to live."
But even with limited information, limited awareness, zero-support and faltering hope, Shiba 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. Today, Shiba works with the Asia Pacific Network of Positive People that spans across Thailand and other South-East Asian nations.
When the government declared free treatment for HIV-positive people in 2006, Shiba 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 want to continue living like I am now and be a good father. I have a two-year-old son. And be a good person for those people who are in need - that is what I want."