HIV crusader hits campaign trail for Congress

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By ANUP SHARMA in Guwahati
  • Published 12.04.09

Guwahati, April 12: In 2006, she had sought a ticket from the Congress to contest the Assembly elections but was turned down.

Three years down the line, she is right in the midst of the heat and dust of electioneering, as she moves around garnering support for the Congress candidate for the Nagaon seat, Anil Raja.

Jahnabi Goswami, who was the first in the Northeast to come out in the open and admit that she was HIV positive, has been the face of the AIDS awareness campaign in Assam and the rest of the region.

She said her plunge into electioneering was also motivated by her desire to give a boost to the awareness campaign against AIDS.

“I want to encourage the ‘positive’ (HIV positive) people to forsake the stigma related to the disease, which is still prevalent in society,” Goswami told The Telegraph today.

Anil Raja, the Congress candidate, thanked her for her aggressive campaigning.

“She is the only star campaigner for me in the constituency since the beginning,” Raja said. “I am also probably the only candidate in the country to have an HIV-positive woman campaigning for me. There is no stigma, rather I am happy that Jahnabi had chosen to help me.”

“By seeing me actively campaigning, HIV-positive men and women would feel that they are, too, like other normal human beings. They can do anything that they used to do before contracting the infection. It is very important to make them feel that they are, too, an integral part of society,” said Jahnabi, who is also the president of the Assam Network of Positive People (ANPP).

“While campaigning for the Congress candidate Anil Raja, I have been appealing to all, including the HIV-positive people like me, to choose the right representative who could take better care of our cause,” she said.

On why she chose the Congress party, Goswami said, “I chose to help the Congress party because of the good work done by the Congress government in Assam during last two terms, particularly in terms of women’s development and towards the people living with HIV/AIDS.”

She said Assam was the only state in the country where the government pays for the transportation cost to the HIV patients who come to the ART centres for tests and medicines.

“Besides, it (the campaigning) has turned out to be a twin job for me as I could also spread awareness about the disease while campaigning. I feel good as many women come forward to ask me about the disease. Yesterday, I met three women from the interior of Nagaon who are suffering from the disease. They came to me seeking advice,” she added.