Dear Sheetal, Tandin, Tshering, Pema and Wangda,
Last evening at 6:30 when Dawa came live on BBS TV, I shivered uncontrollably. I was nervous and horrified. After a few minutes I even started sweating. I felt as if I was experiencing a horrifying massacre. I don’t know why. Perhaps, I’ve never met people living with HIV/AIDS in the past or I was having the phobia of the disease.
But as Dawa went on introducing each one of you who have braved and took all the risks to declare your status, I started feeling pleasant and normal. I was seeing any other five normal people on the BBS studio. You are no different from us. You are good looking, strong, happy and self-reliant. Unlike what myths or misconceptions had, some of you are even more successful, ambitious and enterprising than those without HIV/AIDS.
You know what? After watching the first two segments, this heavy phobia in me (certainly due to lack of information) has been swept away. I felt instant relief and was ecstatic as if I had suddenly recovered from high fever. I came to know certain things from you all: HIV/AIDS is also like any other diseases (TB, hypertension, blood pressure, diabetes); an AIDS patient can live a healthy life with better medical treatments; HIV cannot spread through handshakes and hugs; a baby can born uninfected from a HIV positive mother.
More importantly, your mere presence on the national TV and sharing of your experiences has immensely benefited all the people living with HIV/AIDS and other fellow citizens like me. It has demystified the hoodoo spell (that has placed on us ever since the first detected case of HIV in Bhutan) that HIV/AIDS patients bring misfortunes to his/her family, society and office.
Our government along with the donor agencies worked extensively to stop HIV/AIDS. Awareness programmes through media, leaflets, magazines and textbooks have been in place. But your glorious presence on the TV did more than what our government could do in the last decade with millions of dollars.
As a proud Bhutanese citizen, I applaud for your audacity and noble job you have done yesterday. You took all the risks to come out in the open public from your hiding place to educate us and to fight against the stigma and social discrimination. You did all this not only for yourselves but also for other friends living with HIV/AIDS, their families, co-workers and friends.
I know, for sure, from now onwards you will never be stigmatized and discriminated. You have genuine supports from the highest of religious body, royal family, government, NGOs and our society.
I salute you. You all are my heroes!
Yours well wisher,
Photo: BBSRiku Dhan Subba