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Testing HIV Positive Does Not Mean Your Attitude Towards Life Has To Be Negative!

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Sex can bring with it a lot of emotions. Whether it’s your first time, or you have done it before, you need to make sure it’s something you enjoy and do safely. Wearing a condom each and every time you have sex is one of the best ways to ensure you have fun during sex and greatly reduces your chance of getting a sexually transmitted infection.

A lot of people can feel anxious about losing their virginity and that’s normal. Remember that sex can be a wonderful thing, so long as there is communication and respect from both partners, and you use protection. Mistakes can happen, this is OK, as long as we know all the facts about HIV and other STIs. There are lots of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that don’t have symptoms, so often people won’t know that they have an infection.

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It’s good to test regularly for STIs even if you don’t have any symptoms. Opening up to someone close to you doesn’t only bring you the relief it invites them to assist you with the treatment, especially for us young guys with busy lives one day you take your meds and the other day you forget.

Having someone to nag and remind you, is just what you need. Do not keep your status to yourself, it will only end up causing you stress. Talk about it, it helps. Deciding how to manage your relationships and communicate your preferences to your sexual partners can be very challenging. Talking about how to protect yourself and your partner from STIs and HIV, as well as unwanted pregnancy, before you’re ‘in the moment’ is good for your sexual and mental health.

If you feel you’ve put yourself at risk then get tested immediately to avoid the worry and negative mental health impact that putting it off can have. If you’re diagnosed positive it can take time to get used to the idea of a lifetime on medication and to feel positive about the future. Some people have some side effects from HIV treatment drugs initially, but these usually go away after a few weeks.

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Talking to trusted friends or family about your HIV status can help you work through your emotions. But if you’re not able or ready to do that, in most areas you can access support groups where you’ll find like-minded people going through similar experiences. Everyone will cope differently when they learn they are HIV positive. Feeling sad, angry or scared are all normal reactions, getting support from those around you can help you to manage your emotions during this difficult time.

Learning to live with HIV is a journey but once you know your status you can start treatment and live a long and healthy life like anyone else. Getting support from friends, family or loved ones, can also help you stay positive. It’s easy to convince yourself that you have HIV, without ever having tested. Taking a test will let you put these worries to rest, and you can go back to living your life whether you’re positive or negative.

Either way, facing the fear and taking a test is often the first step in getting your life back. I know I have a lot more to go through with HIV. But just remember trust the people you tell that they aren’t going to judge you, but help you, and be there for you. Life is precious. Keep your head up and realize everything always works out like they are supposed to, and hurt is only but temporary.

I don’t take what happened to me negatively, it won’t do me any good for my health. But moving forward, I’ve learned to love myself more. I’ve learned who my true friends are, and most especially, I’m happy with the love and support that I’m getting from my friends and fellow people living with HIV. There is always a life after an HIV positive diagnosis. People need more information in a clearer tone. I feel like there should be more awareness among people so that, least of all, the community suffering from this can live freely and accept themselves. More support groups and counselling should be given on a regular basis so that at least the stigma of HIV is removed.

Image of the author.

We are not dirty. We didn’t do anything wrong. We just need love, care, equality and some support so that we can keep up with ourselves. I am living a completely normal life with no diseases other than this infection. I have no problem with this but the hiding it part scares me. Don’t forget what happened to you in your past, cherish it, and learn from it.

Do not regret what happened. It may not be easy. I know, but for all, we know this will always serve as a reminder to live our life to the fullest. Ignorance isn’t always bliss. HIV was able to take many lives because we were ignorant about this disease. But we can ensure an HIV free world by making everyone aware of this disease. For a safe and better future, we have to change our mentality and spread awareness.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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