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7 March 2024 - Story

Parbata's Journey in Fighting Stigma and Empowering PLHIV

Written by Anupama Pun

"My world crashed when my husband died of AIDS. That’s when things started to change—my in-laws were unsupportive and hostile towards me and my children. Consequently, I left my husband’s house and sought shelter at my parent’s home. I hesitated, fearing mistreatment from my own parents. However, they welcomed me and my children with open arms," shares Parbata, 39, reflecting on the struggles she endured.

Despite her parent’s support, Parbata faced stigma and discrimination from society. People taunted and abused her. "At that time, my village lacked an HIV testing center, so I had to go to Kathmandu for testing. As I stood in line, people stared at me with utter disgust, labeling me as 'the woman with HIV.' I was appalled by the treatment I received."

However, the hostility she faced didn’t diminish her motivation. "I had supportive parents, and I needed to stay strong for my children. Hence, I chose to be open about my HIV status, determined to fight stigma and discrimination while living with dignity and respect." With support from her family, Parbata disclosed her HIV status during World AIDS Day. "The disrespect and jibes persisted, and there were days I cried over my fate. But social acceptance takes time," Parbata affirms. In 2009, she joined Sandesh Sahayog Samuha, a local partner for the Global Fund Program, where she provided counseling to others living with HIV. "I conducted orientations and counseling sessions, connecting with them as a role model who shared their journey."

Regarding the Global Fund Programs, Parbata states, "It has supported PLHIV to access Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART) and established systems for equitable services and treatment, realizing our rights to better health." She believes changing people’s behavior and perception requires continued effort, lobbying, and advocacy. “Till the time the world is ready to accept us, we need to accept ourselves, and Global Fund has helped create that enabling environment for us.”

Recognizing her dedication, Parbata was elected President of Sandesh Sahayog Samuha, aiming to advocate for social acceptance and policy changes. "It has been a journey supported by many," she acknowledges, emphasizing the need for consistent advocacy with the government and organizations like the Global Fund should continue advocating for increased investment and services for PLHIV.

Looking ahead, Parbata aims to establish an ART center in every district, “With Global Fund’s support we have established an ART center in my village, and I want everyone to have access to these services.”