Manish Sharma, a kirana shop owner in Ujjain, tested positive for HIV in 2004 when his wife was pregnant. This turned his life upside down, but as they say, something beautiful always comes out of something horrible.
Barring the problems of his own life, with strong determination to help people, Sharma started Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) treatment with the support from his family. He has also set up a shelter home for HIV- positive orphaned children in his hometown Ujjain in 2014.
While speaking to TOI, he said, “I was suffering from some health issues and was diagnosed with a liver infection. I decided to go for a thorough medical check-up. The results left me in utter shock. I was more worried about my pregnant wife and the yet-to-be-born child.”
Through the difficult time that he went through, his mother proved to be his biggest strength. After getting diagnosed with HIV, he went to the National AIDS Control Organisation in Delhi for treatment and came across a person who was leading a normal life due to the ART treatment for the last 10 years. “The meeting gave me a new hope. I got my wife tested. Thankfully, she tested negative and later we also got our son tested who also tested negative. I breathed a sigh of relief and started my medicines,” said Sharma.
While discussing the stigma and myths attached to HIV and people affected with it, he also mentioned that few doctors are also biased against these people. “I fractured my thigh in 2014, but doctors refused to perform surgery when they found out that I was HIV positive. Even pregnant HIV-positive women face difficulties as doctors refuse to perform the delivery. This mentality has to be done away with,” he said.
By providing moral support to the HIV/AIDS affected people, Sharma is changing lives. In 2006, he set up his initiative Ujjain HIV/AIDS Network People’s Society for the welfare of these people. “There is a myth that HIV-positive people cannot get married or have children. We got many HIV-positive people married and with proper treatment, their children tested negative which gave them hope.”
Since 2014, he has started a shelter home for HIV positive orphans by teaming up with a local missionary which is the only center in the state for children infected with HIV. Currently, the center has 36 patients and they are hoping to make space for more. “The ART is provided to children by the government while the missionary provides them with food and shelter. We have come far from where we started but we still have a long way to go,” Sharma added.