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Vanlalruati Colney - The Mizoram woman who has helped over 10,000 people with HIV find hope and jobs
Everyone had given up their hopes on Colney, however, she was determined to fight the disease.
Vanlalruati Colney, 37, from Aizawl in Mizoram, has helped over 10,000 people with HIV find medicines, employment and hope. She fell into drug abuse at a young age and was diagnosed with HIV at 20.
She later had Shingles (Herpes Zoster) and developed blisters all over her body. Her hair started falling off and the fluid discharged due to the infection led to her skin sticking to the bedsheets. Since hospital staff were hesitant to wash the sheets, she had to do it herself. At that time, healthcare professionals in Mizoram weren't much aware of HIV and its treatment.
Everyone had given up their hopes on Colney, however, she was determined to fight the disease. She started her first phase of de-addiction at home and later joined a local church group, where she found her purpose - to help fellow HIV patients.
Colney established the Positive Women’s Network of Mizoram (PWNM), a support and advocacy group for women living with HIV, in 2007. "The idea was to uplift and empower women living with HIV, educate them for their welfare, and support and assist one another. The state has over 20,000 registered People Living With HIV (PLHIV), so we wanted to ensure their rights, medical support, connection with state schemes and citizenship entitlements," she told The Better India.
PWNM organises campaigns and activities to spread awareness about HIV and AIDS. They enable support groups and peer counselling, provide legal assistance and access to treatment, rehabilitation and healthcare facilities, linkage with government schemes, employment opportunities and vocational training.
The challenges that have always existed are stigma and discrimination. "We’re stigmatised as a group of indecent delinquents with bad characters, and don’t receive trust and respect, which affects our self-esteem," Colney said. It is the support of her husband, who is also living with HIV, and the local church group that has kept her going.
The organisation has helped more than 10,00 people across the state.