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October 6, 2009 | Health

How about “AIDS widow’s struggle against pain and stigma”

Darhoon Menghwar
HYDERABAD SINDH: Moulding a lump of cold clay on a potter's wheel to make a traditional earthen vessel, Wazeeran Solangi dreamt of becoming an artist. But fate, in the shape of AIDS, had other plans.

Wazeeran is illiterate and maybe she had not heard of the disease. But after she was infected with HIV/ AIDS her life took a U-turn and she became a victim of society and its attitudes. Now having harboured the virus she can only wait for the last stage, amid the ignorance that prevails at the level of both society and government.

"The attitude of people has mentally disturbed me, my joys have turned into sorrows, no one likes to live with me even my own blood relatives,” she says. “My sin is that I was infected by my Husband Qurban Solangi, who died two and a half years ago."

Wazeeran, from Dadu, a rural District of Sindh province 400 km from Karachi, the capital of Sindh Province, went on: “My Husband was diagnosed with HIV/ AIDS at the very last stage, and about a month after his diagnosis he passed away. We had spent our whole property for his treatment."

The diagnosis simply took too long – the couple had to hang about in big cities where he was treated but AIDS was not diagnosed. He was seen by hospitals in Hyderabad and Karachi but let down by inefficiencies there and at laboratories, Finally, after two years, the Agha Khan Hospital in Karachi diagnosed HIV/AIDS.

Sindh province has only one AIDS preventative centre, in Karachi, where services are very poor. In Pakistan's male dominant society, women mostly shun the centre.

“We loafed for two years just trying to find out about the disease,” says Wazeeran. “Then, after two years when he was at the last stage, Agha Khan Hospital in Karachi diagnosed him, but by that time we were too late and Qurban died soon after he was diagnosed.

“We had to bear all expenses by selling our piece of land and other assets. We have spent about 5 lac rupees for his treatment but he could not win his battle for life. Now the family did not just suffer from the financial loss; close relatives broke off relationships.”

This is just one sad story of a family hit by HIV/AIDS - but there are many others.

After losing hope in medical science, Wazeeran has approached spiritual healers for a cure, but nothing has changed so far. "We requested the president of Pakistan, the Sindh chief minister and other authorities to help me out of this disaster," says Solangi.

According to UNAIDS estimates, some 90,000 to 100,000 persons, or 0.1

percent of the adult population in Pakistan, are infected with HIV.

Officially reported cases are, however, much lower.

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