In 1994, I was diagnosed HIV-positive. When I heard this, it was a big blow. The body language of the person who informed me of this news indicated that he didn’t even think of me as a human being. I thought I would die in a few days. I told my wife and we stayed at home for several months and didn’t tell anyone. We later found out that my wife and two daughters did not have it, which was a relief.
My body was very weak. I used to take medicine four times a day, and I reacted badly to the medicine, but I believed that if I took care of my body, God would take care of me. To afford medication, we had to sell our house and take out a loan.
After a while, I decided that I would inform people at work and people I knew that it’s possible to be HIV-positive and carry on with life. I wanted to let them know that people who HIV-positive could continue to live and work meaningfully—for their family, society, and country.
Incidentally, when I was very young, my father signed me up to a wrestling team. It was through wrestling that my willpower and confidence increased when I realized I could be stronger than the average man. After becoming HIV-positive, I re-started my passion. I began my life for the second time, exercising and playing games. The people who were wary of me since contracting HIV—who didn’t talk to me, or invite me to their weddings—these people began to accept me.
With exercise and with good care, my life has been prolonged, my CD4 cell count has grown, and the HIV virus has become dormant.
In May 2004, Bill Clinton visited India to open a clinic, and a doctor invited me to inaugurate the clinic with him. I was nervous but very happy to meet President Clinton; he was doing such good work for us. After the inauguration, I joined an organization called Delhi Network of Positive People. There I met many people with AIDS, many of whom were living in poverty. I decided that I would work for these people. This is my work now. I became a counselor. I got trained by UNDP (United Nations Development Program). I learned how to work for the community and how to use a computer, and fought a case against the Novartis Company for an open market in India to make medicine more affordable.
In one of my photos, I am wearing my “HIV Positive” T-shirt. I wore it on a flight to tell hundreds of people on the plane and in the airport that I am HIV-positive. I am able to travel, walk, and run; I am healthy. I wanted to reduce the stigma and discrimination that comes with HIV and spread awareness that being HIV-positive doesn’t mean death.