Life was already tough for Aaliya who was born in a poor family of Tando Saeed Khan – a small town in Sindh. Her father married her off at a young age, to ease his financial burden. Her husband was quite older than her and was barely making his ends meet.
Along with other issues, Ramzan – Aaliya’s husband – used to take drugs. Unlike her fellow women, Aaliya has a progressive and practical approach towards life, so knowing the fate of her husband and resulting problems, she, after having four children, adopted a permanent family planning method and tried to increase her income by making rilly – a traditional Sindhi craft of quilt making – and by registering herself for government financial support.
Ramzan used to share syringes with his fellow druggies which eventually infected him with HIV. An ignorant person, that he was, he didn’t know what happened to him and what would be the result of it. He passed this infection on to poor Aaliya.
Ramzan died of AIDS. The family was devastated but the situation got worse when Aaliya fell ill and found out that she is also HIV positive. The nearby hospitals were unable to offer any treatment so she came to Karachi and found out about the HIV program running at the Indus Hospital.
In 2017, she came to the hospital and her treatment started. She was treated well with dignity and is now on lifetime medication. Fortunately, her children are safe and healthy.
The story would have ended here if Aaliya were an ordinary woman, but she is not. Aaliya faced stigmatization when she was diagnosed with HIV. Her community and extended family socially boycotted her, even her mother stopped eating with her as if it’s a contagious disease.
Unfortunately, the disease spread as an epidemic in the village as a quack used infected syringes to treat people. It was a great disaster as two villages were badly affected. Aaliya could feel the pain of innocent people who got the virus without any reason.
At this moment, she thought she could help those people. So she started an awareness movement. She tells them that HIV is not contagious and life doesn’t end here. She played an instrumental role in bringing people to Indus for treatment.
Her optimism helped people in gaining courage. Through her efforts, the issue has been brought to government’s notice and efforts are being made to help people.