I came to Australia from India as a student in my mid-twenties. I was excited about living in a new country, and studying a degree in accountancy.
In September 2014 I was diagnosed with HIV. HIV is considered a death sentence in India, and I assumed I had only months to live. I stopped studying. I dropped out of university and isolated myself. When my student visa expired I decided that I would die in Australia and resigned myself to the inevitable.
During my days of fear and loneliness I still wanted to turn to my family for support and comfort. But every time I merely thought of picking up the phone just to hear my mother’s voice – I remembered our neighbours. They had a son, Vikram, and we spent our High School days together. One day Vikram’s father became sick and word got out from the hospital that he had HIV. The hospital told his work, and he got fired and my family forbid me from associating with Vikram. My father said “his father has AIDS, do not go near any of them, you will catch it and we will all be at risk”. Nobody visited the family, and after Vikram’s father died, he and his mother moved away to another town to escape the stigma and discrimination.
In a way, I was relieved that I was going to die here in Australia. At least I would have the support of my friends, whereas my family in India would instantly reject me. But the weeks moved into months and my health improved. I talked to my doctor and he reassured me that with appropriate medication and medical care, I would live a long life. I started to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
But there was still the fear that I would have to go back to India, where people with HIV are considered the lowest of the low. Even hospitals will not treat people with HIV, because the doctors and nurses are scared of catching it. My family would definitely reject me, and due to employers testing people for HIV prior to employment, I would not be able to support myself. I was so afraid that I would be sent home to die that I didn’t know what to do. Eventually, my social worker persuaded me to contact HALC and they helped me to lodge a Protection Visa application, explaining my fears of returning to India.
If my visa is granted, I hope to continue to study and complete my accountancy degree and pursue my career. I also hope one day to marry and maybe have a family of my own.
[all names and information that might identify any individual have been changed for confidentiality purposes]
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