September 9, 2013

On being HIV positive

If you test to be HIV positive, who would you confide in? 

This was what I was asked during a HIV story telling session, a part of the "Logos Hope - World's Largest Floating Book Fair".

The Logos Hope ship is huge and houses a book fair; the ship visits various ports around the world, hence the name "World's Largest Floating Book Fair".
The ship is docked at the Colombo harbour currently and has over a million books for sale.

In addition to the sale of books, they had this small section made to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS. When you go in, they give you a set of headphones which has a audio story of this guy who battles with HIV.
What's interesting is that the story is told in sections and for each section, you move into a room specially made to suit the setting in which the story is based.

Here's the story in brief:
(Section 1: Hostel room) - Meet Mark, an engineering student who one unfortunate day, ventures out with some friends to a party and ends up spending the night with girls he's met for the first time.

(Section 2: A room custom made into a club of sorts with lights, liquor and beds.) -  Clubbing, drinking, doing drugs and sleeping around goes on to become a habit of sorts for Mark.He does it as a means of escaping the stress from college.

(section 3: Park with a lot of greenery and a bench) - Few months later, he meets this medical student, Sarah, at a park where's he's contemplating on quitting his bad habits... Being with her, he realizes what a waste of time partying and sleeping around had been. She's had a rough past as well and the two hit it off well. He falls in love with her and so does she.

(section 4: Sarah's room) - Few months into their relationship, Mark gets a call from a frantic Sarah asking him to come to her house as soon as possible. The ground below him shatters when Mark discovers that Sarah's pregnant. What's worse is that during the course of doing a full check up, Sarah finds out she's HIV positive.

Mark is confused. He is in disbelief on how this could have happened. The big task at hand is to get himself tested.

(section 5: clinic) Here you hand over the headphones and act as Mark. You choose a placard from a box full of placards. The cards are marked either positive or negative.

The placard I picked was 'HIV positive'.
I was asked if this happened to you, who would you confide in?
 - I was dumbfounded.

Who would YOU confide in?

Perhaps it's because people living with HIV are stigmatized and not many declare their positive status in public, it's hard to imagine yourself in that place.
This is how everything goes wrong actually. We always think, "No, this can't happen to me".But nobody's immune. It's so very important to be aware, to be careful and mindful.