Confronting Stigma in the Villages of Nepal

A few weeks ago our AIDSLink Nepal team took a trip to the far west of the country to conduct HIV awareness workshops. The gruelling bus trip there took 48 hours!

The village they went to is very isolated and the villagers were excited to learn about HIV and AIDS. They taught them about what HIV is, transmission, prevention, etc. Initially they asked people “what is HIV?” Some said that they had heard a little from the radio, but nothing much. 

Many of the men in this area go to India to work as migrant labourers. Consequently there were very few men in the village. The men work away from home for long periods of time and sometimes contract HIV in India. When they return to Nepal they infect their wives, who, because they don’t know they have become infected with HIV may also transmit it to their children during pregnancy.

A high school teacher told them that many years ago a man came back from working in India who was sick and had HIV. Finally the people in the village found out that he was HIV positive. This caused a lot of fear and misunderstandings, eventually the man died.

One of the team members asked the teacher what he thinks an HIV positive person looks like. He replied that they are black and covered in sores. The teacher asked her if she had ever seen anyone who is HIV positive, she replied that she knows many people living with HIV (not feeling comfortable to reveal the fact that she herself is living with HIV). She asked the teacher if he thought there was anything that can be done for people living with HIV? He answered, “No there is nothing to be done, people just die if they have HIV”. She then explained that people can take medication and prolong their lives and health. She was surprised to hear the teacher’s opinions and wondered how would he react if he knew she was living with HIV.

The response to the training was very encouraging; the villagers said they learnt a lot of things. “Before we had just heard a bit about HIV, now we know more and we can share these things within our community. This programme has been very helpful.

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