Published: 01st December 2018
World AIDS Day 2018: How this 18-year-old from Kolkata overcame HIV and is now helping change the mindset
Sneha, who completed her schooling and is currently studying retail management at Swami Vivekananda College in Kolkata, loves to play the guitar
Sneha Pramanik (name changed) was only six years old when Anandaghar, the only home for HIV positive children in West Bengal took her in. The toddler was abandoned by her family after her parents succumbed to AIDS.
"I don't remember much about my childhood, I can only recall the day I was brought to Anandaghar after both my parents passed away. I was too young to understand why the other kids did not want to come and play with me at home. My mentor and guide at the shelter home taught me everything. At first, when I was trying to get admission in schools, they refused everywhere, because I was HIV positive. Gradually when the teachers and parents of other kids were sensitised about the issue they took us in. Currently, all the kids from Anandaghar are studying at regular schools," says Sneha.
Sneha tells us that she's never had any difficulties in making friends even though the social stigma surrounding her condition. "I had a lot of friends at school as well now in college. They are all aware of my disease and have no problem with that. Their parents also know about me and are equally supportive," she says. Sneha (18), who completed her schooling and is currently studying retail management at Swami Vivekananda College in Kolkata, loves to play the guitar. "After completing my degree, I wish to do something in the field of music. I really enjoy playing the guitar," she adds.
However, it hasn't always been this smooth since the beginning, Sneha has had to face her portion of difficulties just like the others with the same condition, who are ostracised by the society and people alike. "I have had to fight the resistance in getting admitted to schools at first because of my HIV positive status, but the obstacles didn't end there. When I was studying at Gobindapur Gyanada Devi Girl's High School, we had a monitor who was made responsible for the entire class. He was not aware what it meant to be HIV positive, at first he went on to tell the other students that they shouldn't be near me or speak to me as they might get it too. He even told his mother, and she had asked him not to talk to me. My friends supported me throughout when this incident had taken place. They went and spoke to him and told him that HIV is not a communicable disease like a cold or a cough and nothing happens if you speak to a person with the condition," explains Sneha.
All that positivity: Sneha also works at a cafe in Kolkata that is operated and maintained by ten youngsters who are HIV positive
Apart from attending college, Sneha also works at a cafe in Kolkata that is operated and maintained by ten youngsters who are HIV positive and it encourages conversations to help change the mindset. Sneha wants to expand the concept of the 'positive' cafe further in different locations around the city. Sneha wants to convey an extremely important and socially relevant message to everyone around her, saying, "The individuals who are affected are not people you can't sit and eat with them or speak to, these are all myths that need to be busted immediately. A child living with HIV has an equal right to live, study and work like others of the same age."