What it’s like to always look on the brighter side of life while being HIV positive

Marital rape, forced abortions, bilateral hearing loss and being HIV positive have not deterred 38-year old Jyoti Dhawale from living life to the fullest.


“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.”    Elisabeth Kubler

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Jyoti Dhawale is a shining example of this. Marital rape, forced abortions, bilateral hearing loss and being HIV positive has not deterred 38-year old Jyoti from living her life to the fullest. President at Leading BJP Women Wing of Powai/SakiNaka – Mumbai, Creative Manager at BlackSwan Entertainment Pvt Ltd, ambassador for various organizations like Beydaar society and an AIDS and HIV activist, she is living life by her own rules. The Alternative speaks with this gutsy women to get more details.

Challenging stigma:

Jyoti is involved in various activities. She is an ambassador for the Stigma Project where she provides insight into HIV stigma within communities and cities/regions. She is also a positive speaker at  Deep Griha Society  of Wake Up Pune where she focuses on people living with HIV and who have been judged, stigmatized or discriminated by society.

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“ I raise my voice against HIV to erase the taboo and myth that revolve around this disease. I try to eradicate the ignorance by educating the mass regarding HIV being just another disease/illness that can be kept under control with proper care and medication”, she says. With three forced abortions and diagnosed as HIV + during her fourth abortion due to infected blood transfusions in one of the hospitals, she says,  “I can feel and understand what people go through, having walked the mile on the same shoe myself.”

Apart from HIV field, she also concentrates on taking up case of oppressed women and making the world better for them.

Childhood with its shares of ups and downs:

Deprived of love in the hands of her step mother, Jyoti’s growing up years was a struggle. “I come from a defence background. Moreover, I come from a broken family and never knew love. Despite the Cinderella life that I led, my dad cared and educated me whereas at the hands of stepmother, I had to face lot of pains and unhappiness while growing up, living under fear; being locked up in one room with lunch being a luxury. Breakfast was always cornflakes and dinner was always milk and bread and that continued till I turned 18″, she says.

How hearing disability almost destroyed her dreams:

Jyoti wanted to be a fighter pilot but she suffered from a hearing disability and could only hear sounds 80 dB and above. Her speech was also affected due to this and she was unable to pronounce certain letters. This disability did not let her fulfill her dream. But all these disappointments have only made her a stronger person.

Today, she is a motivational speaker for many campaigns. “Thankfully, no failures. Despite my speech issue, I am still in demand as a motivational speaker. I still give talk shows and am an ambassador for various NGOs,” she says.

If you want to be happy, BE:

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“I have learnt a lot – life itself being the greatest teacher and people being the greatest experience. and also the true meaning of happiness in life. People complain and search for happiness failing to realize that it is WITHIN you. Therefore in my speeches, I always make a point to tell them that if they want to be happy, BE. One cannot get happiness from others or outside,” she says quite philosophically.

Jyoti’s ex-husband demanded a divorce during her fourth pregnancy. Declared HIV Positive during the pregnancy period she was unable to go through with abortion. Though she delivered a healthy baby her ex-husband asked for a divorce and took their baby with him. These things have not broken her. She says, “Life is a balance of all things: where there is good, there is bad.  One should know how to walk with balance on a tightrope with no support except yourself to hang on to.”

Standing up to HIV Positive:

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One of her greatest achievements has been getting out of an abusive marriage and looking forward in life. “I am married to my HIV negative partner, whom I have dated for two years. Like most, he was ignorant too regarding HIV and had his fears. It took me two years to educate him and eradicate those fears. Once empowered, he proposed and we got married in Oct 2013. He has been my greatest system and support in busting the most common myth of HIV – that one cannot get married or have a physical relationship,” she says. She further adds, “Termed as “Mixed Status Couple”, we talk about our lives as a married couple and help educate the mass, eradicating the stigma and discrimination and making the world a better place for people with HIV to live in.”

HIV is no longer a death sentence:

“HIV and AIDS are two different things and these can be kept under control with proper care and medication. What is must is the adherence. If you are dedicated, then one will continue to live long. Educate yourself about the disease by looking up trusted sources. Do not believe everything that you find on Google. HIV is no more a death sentence that it was considered once. One can live normally, can marry and can have babies as well. More importantly – follow up on checkups and lab tests without fail. It is a key to better health and can help you in keeping away/controlling the side effects at bay. Take proper charge of your health and your daily life will not be affected.”

 

All images courtesy Jyoti Dhawale’s facebook page.

 

The Alternative’s #mykindofbeautiful campaign is an attempt to look beyond conventional notions of beauty and recognize and celebrate it in all its diverse forms – to explore new ideas, listen to unheard voices and look for beauty in hidden places. Find more articles from the series here.
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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Usha Hariprasad is a freelance writer. She is fond of travelling, discovering new places and writes about travel related destinations around Bangalore at Citizen Matters. more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Usha Hariprasad is a freelance writer. She is fond of travelling, discovering new places and writes about travel related destinations around Bangalore at Citizen Matters. more

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