I am a religious leader, a pastor, in Manipur, India. I was brought up in a Christian boarding school and belong to a Baptist denomination.
There was a time in my life when my relationship with the Lord was not that good. I was a chain smoker and used to drink a lot. I was into drugs. If ten people came together and there was only one syringe, we would share. I guess the mode of transmission for my HIV was injecting drug use.
In 2001, one of my college friends was sick and I was taking care of him. He went to the hospital and tested positive for HIV. After that, it was made compulsory for all the students to test for HIV. I had my checkup and my blood was screened HIV-positive. I was in denial when I found out. It was very hard to imagine or believe. I felt lost and had many sleepless nights.
Two years later, I came to accept myself as an HIV-positive person. Nobody would ever think or imagine that a pastor would have this virus.
Although I am HIV-positive, my wife and children are all negative. This is what God has made possible in my life. If God wills me to go public and speak about HIV in front of the congregation, I am there.
Before I became HIV-positive, I remember the way Christian leaders treated people living with HIV and AIDS. It was unimaginable. Now, as a person who has experience with the ministry, I feel that I should break my silence and speak out as an advocate for other people who face social stigma and discrimination. This is what I want to request of friends and family and my congregation: Please, treat me as you have treated me before. Do not discriminate against me.
When I break my silence, I will be free like a bird, freed from its cage. That is what I pray and hope. I am sure my being an HIV-positive person has a purpose. I see that most HIV-positive people my age have all died and I am the lone survivor. God is preparing me in some way or another, and I will do what He wants me to do.