Feature: Indian HIV patient honored by LGBT rights group for helping others

Source: Xinhua| 2017-11-15 22:19:01|Editor: pengying
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BANGKOK, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) -- In an effort to break through the discriminatory barriers facing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Community, an Asia-Pacific-based LGBT advocacy group has recently awarded eight campaigners who have been championing marriage equality, HIV prevention, transgender rights and community health services in Bangkok.

Among those awarded by the group called APCOM (Asia-Pacific Coalition of Male Sexual Health) was a young Indian man who has devoted himself to helping others with HIV.

Gautam Yadav, a 29-year-old HIV patient from India, had been suffering from gender dysphoria disorder since the age of 13, when his hormones started kicking in.

When he found out that he had contracted HIV, he felt as if had no place to turn to.

Gautam, at that time, was living in New Delhi and had been struggling to blend into a community where issues related to homosexuality were taboo.

Furthermore, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code punishes those who are found guilty of engaging in acts of homosexuality.

Gautam found himself ostracized from his own peer group and had a hard time looking for a decent job.

He then plummeted into three years of self-deprecation and attempted suicide on many occasions.

However, as Gautam walked onto the stage to receive his award in recognition of his achievement in assisting people with HIV in India, Gautam suddenly felt that all his turmoil and difficulties living with HIV were all worthwhile.

"Accepting my HIV status was very difficult because I did not know who to turn to. I could not tell my parents and my peers would not accept me," said Gautum.

"I slid into depression for three years but later decided I was going to stand up and not be held back by my sexual orientation," he added.

In 2013, Gautam was approached by an HIV research team from the University of California and the latter decided to film a documentary of HIV persons living in India called "Through the Positive Eyes."

Gautam was one of the people featured in the documentary. From then on, history was made for the fledging young HIV activist.

Along with Gautam, there were seven others honored as heroes in different fields.

Pakistan's Qasim Iqbal was recognized as a Social Justice Hero for his trailblazing advocacy work related to LGBT health and rights in Pakistan.

Thai resident Dr. Frits van Griensven was named Health and Wellbeing Hero for his outstanding work as an HIV researcher and community health advocate.

And longtime director and pioneer at the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Center, Professor Praphan Panupak, was bestowed with the Community Ally Award.

Professor Praphan opened the AIDS Research Center back in 1989 when HIV was endemic in Thailand. He said that back then, people were just too afraid to enter a clinic to have their blood checked.

It was for this reason that Professor Praphan named his clinic "Anonymous Clinic" as the patients attending were not required to reveal their names to the clinic.

"Initially the clinic was meant for HIV people to come for testing and counseling without needing to reveal their real names and identities because people were afraid of the risks of having others know about their conditions. So, at that time our clinic was called Anonymous Clinic," said Dr. Praphan.

It has been a long battle for the LGBT community to achieve a break through in the Asian Pacific region where issues regarding homosexuality remain taboo.

However, as the times change, so have the attitudes in societies, leading to constitutional amendments and more rights for the LGBT community.

In August 2017, the Indian Supreme Court ditched the stringent Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

It ruled that the Right to Privacy was a fundamental right and called for increased equality and condemned discrimination. It stated that the protection of sexual orientation lies at the core of the fundamental rights and that the rights of the LGBT population are real and founded in constitutional doctrine.

For someone like Gautam, the annulment of Section 377 was a huge boost to him. however, many in the LGBT community still believe that the battle is an on-going one, and they vow to fight on.

Marking the 10th anniversary of APCOM, the award-giving event also raised much needed funds for APCOM's vital work in relation to HIV education, prevention, treatment, care and support, as well as human rights.