HIV POSITIVE IN INDIA { 15 images } Created 7 Mar 2013

Like many HIV-positive women in India, Vasanti Shinde, age 26, only found out that she was HIV positive after her husband became seriously ill with an AIDS-related illness. Vasanti's husband subsequently died. Vasanti now lives with her two younger daughters the one-room home of her brother in Maharashtra state.

Though first-line drugs and homeopathic medicine keep Vasanti healthy, she is prone to infection and recently suffered a bout of influenza. Vasanti is completely open about her HIV status and most of her neighbours know that she is HIV positive.

While photographing Vasanti, I discovered that, by accepting and confronting her disease, this young woman had succeeded in transforming her life for the better. She had become an outspoken advocate for the rights of HIV-positive people working with a local organisation called the Save Foundation that campaigns for the right to access generic drugs.

A shared sense of solidarity with other HIV-positive Indians meant that Vasanti’s advocacy work had allowed her to breach the intransigent barriers of caste, religion and language that divide Indian society. Like many other advocates for the HIV-positive community, Vasanti’s horizons had broadened and she had outspoken opinions on subjects beyond the immediate concerns of her illness. Indeed, her own experience of discrimination had led her to consider the concerns of others condemned by prejudice and ignorance for reasons that had nothing to do with HIV.
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