A member of India’s PLHIV community reflects on ten years of access to free antiretroviral treatment.
For Naomi Semy, life almost came to a standstill when she tested positive. “As I saw the test report, everything went blank. I just thought, ‘I am dead.’”
For many days, she did not talk to anyone and didn’t step out of her home. One day gathering courage, she decided to meet a doctor. Luckily for her, the doctor was supportive. He counselled her on how treatment could help her live a long and healthy life with HIV.
She promptly decided to begin antiretroviral treatment (ART). “I was buying medicines from a private clinic, and it was very expensive. The cost made things difficult, but I managed somehow.”
Then. in 2004, the government opened an ART centre in Kohima, Nagaland, that offered no-cost services. “There was no looking back since then. What more could I have asked for than to live healthy with HIV.”
Naomi today leads the Network of Naga People Living with HIV and AIDS (NNP+). The network has 4,000 registered members and is reaching out to 10,000 people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the state.
Having successfully managed HIV for 10 years now, Naomi is now a role model for other PLHIV. “How long we live is not important but how well we live is. This has guided me to live a fulfilling life despite being HIV positive. No doubt, ARV is my friend indeed.”
With support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Vihaan is establishing 350 Care & Support Centres across India that will help expand access to services, increase treatment adherence, reduce stigma and discrimination, and improve the quality of life of PLHIV. The centres will support PLHIV, including those from underserved and marginalized populations who have had difficulty in accessing treatment including women, children and high-risk groups in 31 states and territories.