Real Heroes: HIV positive woman helps 20,000 others
Kousalya Periaswamy was the first Indian woman to openly admit that she was HIV positive. Over the years, she has helped over 20,000 women across the country fight the stigma by supporting them financially and legally.
Vimly, a HIV positive woman, says, "My biggest fear is that if people come to know I am HIV positive, they will not come near me."
Helping women like Vimla overcome their fears and fight social ostracism is Kousalya Periasamy's mission.
She herself fought a similar past. Widowed at just 19 and left infected with the HIV virus by her husband, Kousalya was the first Indian woman to declare in full media glare that she was HIV positive.
Kousalya says, "Many women in my own village were HIV positive. One month or few days after marriage, because the husband is sick, he passes it on to the wife."
However, the media interview was only the first step. Kousalya's main aim was to highlight the vulnerability of the Indian housewife to HIV and the lack of support systems to educate or rehabilitate her.
Armed with this idea, Kousalya gathered like-minded women and started a network that would solely work for the positive women, and the name came in instinctively - Positive Women Network.
Kousalya, through her organisation, PWN, took up legal battles for these women, to provide them the rightful ownership of their property.
"We request free legal aid people to take up cases of HIV positive women. They write it and go to the lawyer along with one of our women. They then send a notice," says Kousalya.
While the women thank Kousalya for their new found life, she in turn has put her life itself on stake for the cause.
"I don't have the fear about my death. But the thing is who will be the next person to take care of the organisation. That's the only worry I have."