“Initially, the situation was very difficult. There was a lot of fear, a lot of distance between people. No one was talking to anyone, everyone was just concerned about themselves,” says Beena Singh*. Beena is an HIV+ volunteer with Alwar Network for People living with HIV in Alwar, Rajasthan. When COVID struck, she remembers being called upon by her supervisor. They asked her if she was willing to work in the field. “I gladly replied yes,” says Beena. Beena recalls how the HIV community faced a dearth of medication during the lockdown and had to ask for help. Her work in the field was also not easy. “Since we had no official IDs, Anganwaadis mostly turned us away. Once we made connections with local doctors, they allowed us to gather data about vaccinations,” says Beena. Beena was initially hesitant to take the vaccine since she feared what it would do to an HIV+ person. But the doctors shared resources and information that addressed her hesitancy. Beena later helped those around her overcome their fear of the vaccine. While poverty and lack of employment opportunities is one of the reasons why she works, spreading awareness is also her duty, she believes.
*Name Changed to protect the identity