Rokhsana is a 26 year old who always looks happy, healthy and enthusiastic. She loves her son and she loves her life as she now understands the meaning of life. Her life was not this easy 5 years earlier. She had a sad and difficult life hidden behind her smiling face. She could only study up to grade seven and did not have an opportunity to study further. She was forced to marry at the age of 15. Her husband was a migrant worker named Abdul Halim. Her husband went back to work abroad only after 15 days of their marriage.
While Rokhsana was waiting for her husband to return, she gave birth to a son. Finally, her husband returned to Bangladesh after 4 years. She was happy with her husband’s return as she could share her joys and sorrows with him. Her husband was getting sick very frequently. He suffered from fever, diarrhea and other conditions on a recurring basis. He was admitted to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Hospital for medical tests and was diagnosed as HIV positive.
Rokhsana also underwent medical tests and the result was positive as well. Once diagnosed as HIV positive, BSMMU hospital referred Rokhsana and her husband to Ashar Alo Society. Unfortunately, her husband died within one month of their becoming members of Ashar Alo Society. As a result of this sudden tragedy, Rokhsana suffered depression and anxiety. She wasn’t able to understand what she could do and her life changed for the worse. Due to her condition, she and her son were discriminated by the society. She was isolated and could not share anything with others while she was getting more and more sick.
Since she could not send her son to school due to the fear of stigma and discrimination, commencement of his schooling was delayed by 2 years. The entirely unfavorable scenario destroyed her morale completely and she lost all her desire to live. After a while, she found the resolve to return to Ashar Alo Society (AAS) and enroll for their necessary health services. She received counseling on HIV/AIDS and living with it while maintaining a positive mindset.
She received regular health check-ups from Ashar Alo Society (AAS) as well as ARV treatment as her CD4 cell count was very poor. Within 8 months following the treatment provided by Ashar Alo Society, her CD4 cell count increased. Things started to change for the better. She attended the monthly social day regularly and received several trainings on leadership development, peer education, positive living, etc. These trainings enhanced her mental strength and she was not feeling depressed anymore. Her physical condition also improved after following the ARV treatment and her CD4 cell count was increasing constantly.
She recalls, “I was in the dark and felt danger. I could not find any way to live and I thought everything was lost in life. I thought I would never be physically active, like other people. I could not participate in any public programs as I was stigmatized and discriminated. My son could not attend school as his friends insulted him. But Ashar Alo Society (AAS) gave everything back to me. As a result, I feel healthy and I have gained confidence and mental strength to live a new life. Now my HIV positive status is not a barrier for my progress. Now I know what HIV is and I deliver the information about HIV to people. I want to break all the misconceptions about HIV/AIDS.”
Rokhsana is proud and happy to share her feelings and experiences with other HIV positive friends. She is also very committed to looking after her son and making sure he will be well established in the society.
Link to Ashar Alo here.
Note: Photo in this post is not related to the story.