How this unique Indian matrimonial website helps HIV Positive People

Traditional Indian society frowns upon anything that is out of the ordinary rut. From sexual minority (LGBT) community to AIDS patients to ethnic minorities, all  are subjected to   physical torture, humiliation and ostracization.

Over the last few decades, the incidence AIDS and the number of  HIV+ patients  has  reached alarming  proportions,  despite    breakthroughs in medical procedures , to combat the deadly virus.  The moment the word gets around; the patients are shunned and boycotted by their friends, acquaintances and even family members.  They are left to spend their days in loneliness and isolation.

Lata and Vijay met at a "matrimonial meeting" organised by PositiveSaathi.com

Lata and Vijay met at a “matrimonial meeting” organised by PositiveSaathi.com

Not all is lost for the HIV+ patients. They can now find companions  / partners thanks to a matrimonial  website PositiveSaathi.com .It is the brainchild of  Anil Valiv,  an officer in the Maharashtra state transport department who nurtures a a passion for social service. .

What motivated Valiv to launch this website ten years ago was his first hand experiences with HIV+patients. He had sorrowfully watched a close friend, who had contracted the virus in  1990s, waste away in pain, suffering and isolation. Valiv recalls, “He was shunned by his own family. I cannot forget the longing in his eyes for a family and children. Such is the stigma attached to the infection that when he died in 2006, his father refused to light his pyre at his sparsely attended funeral.”    A doctor once told him about an HIV positive man who was so desperate to get married that  he threatened marry a healthy woman without revealing his HIV status, if he didn’t find an HIV positive match soon.  “That made me realize how difficult it was for such people to find a spouse” says Valiv

Till date 5000 HIV positive people have joined the website. Out of them nearly two-thirds hail from rural areas. Commendable, considering the poor internet connectivity in villages. Interestingly 250 of the registered members are NRIs !

“Matrimonial Meetings” are organized   from time to time in various cities and towns like Pune and Solapur. Valiv himself bears the expenses of website maintenance organizing meetings, printing posters, and getting them pasted in conspicuous public places. Initially people were a wary but gradually they gained confidence and their numbers swelled. Participation improved further, once Valiv roped in some NGOs. Sensing that women’s turnout was low, he volunteered to bear the women’s travelling expenses!!! And guess what the participation of women has increased. What are the hurdles along the way?  Since most participants are smitten by guilt and despair, it needs a lot of effort to make them open up.  Secondly, Women with children (especially girls) are rejected.  Thirdly most of these HIV+ patients prefer partners from their own caste. “The caste consideration is strong……because many of them do not reveal their HIV status to their families, who keep putting pressure on them to get married,” Valiv says.

All said and done, “My role is that of a facilitator….people connects through the website or during a matrimonial meeting, and then interact directly,” he says.

The motto of his life: “HIV should not come in the way of one’s right to dream.”

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