An HIV Survivor Jyoti Dhawale’s Story Of True Grit, Determination And Courage Is A Must Read!
8 September 2017
Happiness is a personal choice. Despite what comes our way. There is no fun in living a monotonous life. There have to be the flavours of spice in it.
In our today’s story, we have Jyoti Dhawale who is a long-term HIV survivor or LTS. LTS refers to people who have been living with HIV for more than ten years, and who were diagnosed after 1996. This group is sometimes known as Post-HAART LTS.
Jyoti’s life has been one such dramatic motion. Jyoti wanted to join the Air Force as a fighter-pilot (she is from Air Force background, her father being a retired Officer) but was unable to because she suffers from bilateral sensorineural hearing loss she suffered at the age of three.
She was told that the front tyre of the bike, which her father had been driving, got punctured and she fell head first on the road, leading to her hearing loss. Doctors tend to disagree though, stating the injury is more due to physical abuse than the accident.
Jyoti fell in love and got married at 28. Things went well until she discovered that she is pregnant. Jyoti’s husband was not ready to have a child hence as per her husband, she had to abort the baby. She aborted thrice (not as per her will) in a year.
Jyoti confessed that she was financially and emotionally dependent on her husband and too naive to even know about the Domestic Violence Act then. Though she did use contraceptive measures, Oral pills didn’t work for her as there was a lot of side effects and she used vaginal pill which has a high risk of failure – as it requires 10-15 minutes of waiting period time.
Her ex-husband demanded divorce after two years of the birth of the child, taking over his son’s custody as well.
Jyoti strived hard to deal everything on her own. Having been a witness to such events in life, she thought to live a life with dignity. She began her journey of learning about HIV through meeting experts, reading online, joining HIV support groups and so on.
Jyoti’s second marriage to HIV negative man, Vivek Surve showed her compassion, care and forgiveness. But this marriage too is on the brink of separation after four years – Currently, Jyoti lives in Bangalore and work as Project Co-Ordinator/ Spokesperson for Being Positive Foundation as well as International Steering Community member for Preventive Access Campaign Community Advisory Board for The Well Project both based in the USA.
Jyoti boldly shares her HIV reality with the world to dispel myths and increase awareness and acceptance. Jyoti has been stigmatised, discriminated, hated, shunned and even ostracized and she fought for her survival – for being accepted and loved, for who she is, not for what she is.
Jyoti didn’t want to stay behind society’s patriarchal system, neither bind to its conservative traditions and orthodox values.
On her initial journey, she faced a lot of flak and criticism based on her interviews with Indian mainstream media. Jyoti was being called a “whore”, a “baby-killer” and people started to judge her just because of her HIV status without knowing fully her story and understanding her journey. Did she care? No.
As per her,
“People will always blame a woman. Such is a society we live in and one is tend to be judged based on your life history. I don’t let such things bother me because deep in my heart I know I haven’t done anything wrong to be afraid of. Many of my friends and people are also witness to the way I have lived all these years and my struggles were not hidden from them”.
Things changed this year on her birthday 24th July, when it was announced to the world at International AIDS Society Conference in Paris that if a person follows strict adherence to medicines and remains undetectable for six months and more, with no history of STI/STD, then he/she cannot pass or transmit the virus to their partner.
That is where U=U (better known as UequalsU) came into being, campaigned by Prevention Access Campaign in the USA. (To know more about it, please see the link https://www.preventionaccess.org/
This has been proven with clinical studies and the results are all based on science and proof.
Jyoti brought India to the world map in HIV revolution. Being Positive Foundation of Bangalore, where she plays a big role was the first Indian NGO to join with the rest of other international organisations as a Community Partner. It is Jyoti’s one of the greatest success and achievement.
Jyoti Dhawale is a Woman of Courage because she showed her face and spoke openly about her status which takes a lot of guts, grit, courage and determination. Her life story is one such roller coaster wherein any person can jump off and easily let go every problem. However, Jyoti stayed in, she fought for her existence and proved the world that yes, she exists.
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