Jyoti Surve came out of the HIV closet and is now a vivacious HIV activist and blogger based in Mumbai. Remarried in October 2013, she is on a mission to empower people to take control of their health and have more conversations about HIV
Jyoti Dhawale Surve was born in 1976. The literal meaning of Jyoti in Hindi is Ray of Light. But the light in her life was sucked out when she was diagnosed with HIV on account of medical negligence eight years ago.
Learning that she is HIV positive
I was already married for over a year when I contracted HIV in 2006. I was tested HIV positive through medical negligence while undergoing abortion, likely through infected needles or through unsterilized operation equipments.
After learning that I was HIV-positive, I was very afraid of the stigma and didn’t know how to face society. My health started to deteriorate physically, mentally and emotionally as well. Slowly, my ex-husband put me in the background, fell in love with someone else and divorced me.
Braving the World
It took me five years to come out in the open as HIV-positive. I came out because of an HIV activist in America who inspired me through Facebook. I already had to cope with another disability—hearing loss—along with HIV. It is not easy, but I have no choice. I have learnt to live with it, and it has given me much more than I could have ever wanted.
For me, being HIV-positive is a blessing in disguise. I accept it. I have a virus. That is me. If you don’t like me, that is not my problem.
I meditate and chant to connect closely with God, which helps me. What food is to the body, chanting and meditation are to the soul.
Today, I am an IT professional, a computer engineer, an Internet blogger, and at the same time I devote myself to serving people with HIV and AIDS. I always say that viruses don’t discriminate against anyone, but people do, so my message is this: Don’t judge us because of the virus. We don’t want pity or sympathy, just love.
Being HIV-positive is a new beginning, the new start of life, a fresh hope! Don’t let the virus destroy you. Life is short. Live it. Love it
Breaking the Myths
HIV is nothing but a mere virus and all you need is proper education on health and safety measures to lead a normal, healthy and happy life.
Medical science has truly advanced. The disease can be kept under control by strict adherence to medication and proper diet, just like diabetics taking daily insulin to keep sugar levels in check.
The more I found out about HIV, the more I wanted to know and I was in awe of how much ignorance there was, and how the very ignorance led to stigma, discrimination, fear, hatred and ostracism in the society.
HIV DOES NOT spread by coughing, saliva or sneezing, hugging, living under same roof, sharing toilets, playing together, studying together, working together and eating from the same plate – (source: aids-india.org)
Second chance at Life
In October 2013, Jyoti found love again and tied the knot with Vivek Surve
Here, in India, HIV/AIDS is a curse and those who are living with it are treated as 'untouchables'. I want to reach out, through the powers of media, to even the remotest place, and extend my hands to those crying for love, care and acceptance.
Jyoti is a part of various mobility projects breaking the taboo of HIV survivors and is the Indian Ambassador of the Stigma Project that addresses the societal concerns of people living with HIV.
"In a conservative country like ours, I want to expose myself to show that HIV is not related only to the poor, the downtrodden, prostitute or drug/sex addicts. Even your well-do-to neighbour could be one! We need to reach out, speak up and be heard!
Indeed, it's my mission to help make the world a better place to live in for people living with HIV/AIDS."
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