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Jhannabi Goswami, President ANP+, AIDS Activist of North East India
Jhannabi  Goswami, President ANP+, AIDS Activist of North East India
PHOTO : Jhannabi Goswami, President ANP+, AIDS Activist of North East India with at ‘Geetanjali’ guest house on January 20.

Indian Network for Positive People, Secretary and Assam Network of Positive People, President Jhannabi Goswami discusses her campaigns for Positive People with at ‘Geetanjali’ guest house on January 20.

Born into a political family on 16 September 1976 in Assam's Nagaon district, Jahnabi Goswami was like any other girl with a closet-full of dreams waiting for the right time to manifest. Destiny had other plans. Her father was killed by militants. Her marriage gave her HIV. She lost her two-year old daughter, Kasturi, to the condition.

 And she now lives a knock away from death with a smile that hides her many tragedies.  Jahnabi is the founding member and treasurer of ANP+ (Assam Network of HIV Positive People) and the general secretary of INP+ (The Indian Network for People living with HIV/AIDS). She shocked everyone in 1995 when she admitted in public that she is a HIV+, the first woman in North-East India to do so. From then on, she dedicated her life to give others an HIV/AIDS-free world.

TIWN : How do you look back on the last 16 years of your life?

I never turned back during the last 16 years of life once I started facing my life boldly with the support of my family.  I did lose many wonderful moments, like being a mother. That could never be brought back. At the same time, the confidence and will power I gained in the course of time... when I transfer to those who are in need of it, I feel satisfied; my life has its meaning.

TIWN : Coming to INP+ & ANP+, when was it established and what have you achieved till date?

 After the formation of SLN, there has been a vast change in society. The hospital accepted us, discrimination has come down. Today, there is also free transportation for people living with HIV. There is also free investigation for us, many of us come out openly, some have got employment in government departments, children are able to go to school without any fear.

TIWN : How are the government efforts under NACO and projects like the Red Ribbon Express helping in tackling the HIV issue?

 It is to be admitted that the government's efforts under NACO and projects like the Red Ribbon Express have helped in spreading awareness about HIV. The same could be done in a more expansive way, like follow-up on the efforts initiated. More such efforts need to be continued; as positive networks, we would always be supportive. A lot of people till today don't know the difference between HIV+ and AIDS.

TIWN : Given this scenario, how soon do you expect a course correction in terms of the stigma and opportunity in society for the affected?

 I do agree to your point but at the same time, all these efforts are to be reciprocated with active initiation and participation from the public as well. As people care about the importance of vaccination, they should also realise the importance of voluntary testing. Only then these efforts will attain their goal. If anyone could guarantee complete cooperation from public, I could say, the course correction should be attainable within a decade.

TIWN : Are you happy with the media focus on HIV+ people? Where have they missed according to you?

 Certainly we are happy about the media participation. As I said, there needs to be more participation. While they capture certain incidents of discrimination, they should go to the end of the problem and capture it.

TIWN : What are the biggest challenges in your mission — funds, slow government help, people's lack of concern, fear or stigma?

 I can say all equally. Nowadays, international agencies consider India as a middle income country (and that hampers foreign funding). Yes of course lack of concern from some departments and concerned authorities is still seen. They do not understand some very critical issues, like lack of government schemes and education and health facilities for HIV+, delay in judgement cases of positive people. We also cannot deny the fear and stigma. Still many people feel if they ask for my their rights, they will lose everything.

TIWN : You have closely observed the services being given to Positive People,

 What more do you think could be done for them?

The state government should establish more ART centres, as a large number of Positive People are from low-income groups and cannot afford to go large distances to avail of facilities at the centres.Mobile ART centres could be established for remote places and for people who don't have access to any support. The state government
needs to ensure proper nutritional support for all Positive People.

TIWN : How will the HIV/AIDS Bill support the cause of the positive community in India?

The HIV/AIDS Bill not only speaks of giving rights to Positive People, but also about bringing them into the mainstream. We also want the state government to involve more and more Positive People, not just for helping mainstream the community and as peer counsellors, but also at policy level. Whenever a new programme or
policy is launched for Positive People, the state government should take advice from the community, which will be able to judge the situation better.


TIWN : What is your dream?

My dream is to see zero new infection for the new born babies.

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