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UP village empowers HIV+ women to fight her case

Dec 10, 2010

Tuksar village in UP didn’t outcast Praveen Devi for the misfortune of contracting HIV+. Rather the village set a unique example of empowering her by electing to the block level so that she can battle the hospital whose negligence caused her disease.

At a time when neglect and social ostracism for HIV-positive people are rife, a village in Uttar Pradesh has rallied around an HIV-positive woman. Praveen Devi (30), a resident of Tuksan village in Hathras, has been elected to the local block development committee so she can battle a private hospital in Aligarh, where she allegedly contracted the infection through a blood transfusion.

The people voted for her even though she never came out for canvassing. “We never cared what she will do for the village, we just wanted her to win the election to fight her own battle,” said Dinesh Chowdhary, a villager.

“We hoped that after winning, she may get support to fight her case. No one listens to the common man,” said Mukesh Kumar, the pradhan of Tuksan.

Before Praveen was declared elected on October 31, the Health Department authorities did not listen to her. Now things have started moving, with the intervention of state Power minister Ramveer Upadhyay. “I have asked the Aligarh Commissioner to look into the matter,” said Upadhyay. Aligarh’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Uma Kant Gupta has formed a three-member committee to probe the issue.

According to Dharamveer Singh, Praveen’s uncle, she got the virus when she was admitted to a private hospital in Aligarh seven months ago. In the final stages of pregnancy, she suffered blood loss and was administered two bottles of blood. A few days later, she was discharged. But when her health showed no improvement, she was taken to a Agra hospital. A blood test showed that she was HIV-positive. A laboratory in Mumbai confirmed the result.

In June, after she was discharged from the hospital, the family went to the Aligarh hospital. “The doctors said they needed the original papers, which mentioned she had been administered two bottles of blood,” said Umesh, her husband. “We gave them the paper, but they did not return them.” On the next visit, the doctors denied that she had ever been administered blood. Umesh wrote to the Health department, but there was no response. “Then we asked villagers to help us,” he said. They decided to field her for membership of the block development committee, which comprises three villages. The villagers then approached the other two villages for support. Umesh says their two elder children were born through ceasarian section, but except his wife, no one in the family — he or their three children, Mayank (5), Shagun (3) and Kajal (seven months) — have tested positive for HIV.

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