Positive people

Doing their part

Wangda Dorji made history yesterday morning. He revealed that he is HIV positive. And by doing so, he became the first Bhutanese person to publically disclose that he is inflicted with HIV. He made his announcement and shared his painful story with the guests who had gathered to commemorate World AIDS Day.

Later, in the evening, four more people joined Wangda Dorji. Tandin Wangchuk, Pema Dorji, Sithal Chhetri and Tshering Choden, Wangda’s wife, also revealed that they have HIV. They, along with Wangda, who is the executive director of “Lhaksam”, a nonprofit support group for HIV patients, shared their personal stories on live national TV.

They told us about the torment they felt when they found out that they were infected with HIV. They told us about the agony they had to overcome knowing that they had infected others. And they told us about the suffering they have to endure due to the stigma of HIV/AIDS and widespread social discrimination.

They also told us that they had decided to come out in the open to ease the suffering of other HIV patients, and to educate the rest of us on the realities of HIV/AIDS.

The five of them are extraordinary people. They are brave beyond measure. They have suffered more than most of us ever will. And now, by making their identities and their stories publicly known, they risk exposing themselves to even more prejudices and discrimination.

But their courage has already boosted the fight against HIV/AIDS. They have given the disease a human face – a face that tells us that HIV is not a death sentence; a face that assures us that HIV patients are regular people who live full and productive lives; a face that implores us not to needlessly discriminate against those who have HIV.

They’ve done their part. Five positive people have come out in the open and, just like that, they have demystified HIV/AIDS.

The question now is, will we do our part? Will we learn about the disease? Will we join the fight against it? But most of all, will we treat the five of them, and others like them, as normal human beings?

Photo credit: Kuensel