I now know how powerless it feels to have people break down in front of you while describing the way HIV and AIDS has robbed them of their parents or left them shunned from their communities.
I was in a city in South East India to understand and collect stories about a World Vision Project, working with people infected and affected by HIV and AIDs.
I met and interviewed several people living with the diseases and they told me about their feelings of shame, fear, stigma and hopelessness.
A few of them, mainly widowed mothers, even spoke of contemplating suicide before they became involved in the Project.
Every person I spoke to ended his or her story with his or her hands together in a prayer-like position saying a pure and heartfelt ‘Namaste’ or ‘Thank You.’
They were expressing their thanks to AuCom Electronics, a large slow-start motor company in Christchurch, which supports their community through World Vision.
AuCom is funding the World Vision Project which is, among other things, helping to set up support networks called ‘Positive People’s Associations’ for people who have experienced discrimination because of their HIV status.
World Vision community workers provide support and counselling for members, many of who have been asked to leave their in-laws’ houses due to the fear and shame of their community.
The Project also sets up income-generating projects, providing equipment like sewing machines, grinders for grains and hand carts for widows and mothers struggling to provide for their families.
Dylan Quinnell is Public Relations Specialist at World Vision based in Auckland.