“Look at me, I’m HIV positive, I’m healthy, I’m happy, I’m working, life goes on”

February 28, 2010

Caitlin McQuilling

by Caitlin McQuilling

“We have a long life, but it has to be a disciplined life, where we take care of ourselves and those around us”
Rajpal, President, Jhabua District Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, at the Inauguration of RMF’s Integrated Counseling and Testing Center.

Meet Rajpal, an individual who started as a patient, became a colleague, and who is now a great friend helping friends.

In February of 2008 Dr. Fabian Toegel, RMF’s Honorary Country Director, visited the Mother Theresa Home for the Dying and Destitute in Jhabua, where the Sisters of Charity lovingly take care of those too sick to live on their own and without family to care for them. There he saw a number of young men who came to this center with “mysterious” incurable diseases and who were living in hospice. Fabian saw signs and symptoms of HIV/AIDS in some, and so worked with the Sisters to counsel their patients about HIV/AIDS and to get them tested. For four of these men, including Rajpal, HIV turned out to be why they were so sick.

All of the patients found positive were enrolled into our care and support program and brought to the government’s antiretroviral treatment (ART) center for assessment by doctors and treatment if necessary.
Rajpal’s CD4 count was extremely low. He immediately started ART treatment and as he started to gain back energy he hadn’t had in years he wanted to use his new energy to help others in his position.

Rajpal volunteered for RMF for a few months helping coordinate our HIV/AIDS program and then with Real Medicine Foundation’s support he founded the Jhabua Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in August of 2008. This group has an active membership of 85 HIV+ individuals and receives support both from RMF and the Madhya Pradesh State AIDS Control Organization. Rajpal and a group of fellow positive people support each other, coordinating trips to the ART center, counseling new positive cases and new ART patients. Their support to each other makes the world of difference and is something that counselors or medical staff can’t provide no matter how well-trained. They give each other tips on how to fight the nausea brought on by ART and advice on how to remember to take their medication daily. HIV/AIDS is a scary prognosis, but with each other as support, many patients find the strength to fight the virus head on. Rajpal uses himself as an example to other HIV positive people; “Look at me, I’m HIV positive, I’m healthy, I’m happy, I’m working, life goes on.”

Country Page: India Initiative Page: HIV/AIDS Prevention & Care Program