Mentor gave me hope

I came to visit London from India in July 2003 with my husband.
After a few months we wanted to extend our stay but our visas were
expiring. In December 2003, my husband went back to India alone to
deal with the visas as I was sick and unable to travel.
Unfortunately he wasn’t granted an extension and remained in India.
In the meantime I was suffering with health problems and in January
2004 I was diagnosed as being HIV-positive.

I had no idea what HIV was and the doctors explained it to me as
best they could. I was in shock. I confronted my husband over the
phone and he told me he had been diagnosed with HIV in 2002. I was
depressed – I was admitted into hospital where I remained for 10
months. My CD4 count (a type of white blood cell attacked by the
virus) had been 90; it had now fallen to 56. I had developed TB as

A few months later my husband died in India. I was terrified – I
thought that the same thing would happen to me. In India health
care is private and medicine is not freely available. I realised
how lucky I was because I hadn’t gone back with my husband. I was
in London and receiving good health care.

I didn’t tell anyone about my HIV status. Back home I had a family;
I missed my brothers, sisters and my mother. In London I had no
friends or family. I didn’t want to make friends as I was so
depressed. I was alone, homeless, with no money and no visa.

Then one day one of the nurses gave me a leaflet for the Naz
Project London. I phoned the number and left a message and the next
day the client support services manager Parminder Sekhon contacted
me. From that day onwards she has helped me tremendously. I was
appointed a social worker, Khaiser, and he helped me obtain
accommodation. I have also received a little financial support from
the project.

When I started attending workshops at Naz I met other people who
were HIV-positive. I was amazed that some of them have been living
with HIV for 10 years – it gave me some hope. My health was slowly
improving but I was still depressed and lonely. Naz approached me
and asked if I would like to have a mentor. I thought I’d give it a
try and this is how I met Asesha, who has become my mentor.

For six months I have been meeting her and it has helped me to see
things differently. During this time it has helped me to change
things in my life and my outlook is more positive. My health is
much improved, I have developed some friendships, and I do
voluntary work at Naz. I also hope to work as a volunteer for
another HIV project. Recently, I decided to disclose my HIV status
to a friend and my sister. It has been just over a year and a half
since I was diagnosed and now I feel a sense of real hope. I feel I
have a future.

Saritha Sada is HIV positive and volunteers for HIV charity
Naz Project London
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