Daisy David is one of 34 million people around the world living with the HIV/AIDS virus. In India, where an estimated 2.4 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, Daisy has dedicated her life to raising awareness and fighting for the rights of those affected.
"After I was diagnosed, I faced extreme discrimination from relatives, family, church, neighbors and friends," Daisy said. "It was shocking for me to accept it."
Daisy's world completely changed after she was diagnosed with HIV in 1998. It was her initial diagnosis, Daisy says, that brought her from being a namesake Christian to a devoted Christ follower. Following her diagnosis, she fully surrendered her life to the Lord, and even got baptized at her local church.
"One of my friends told me, 'Daisy, having HIV is not a sin,'" Daisy says. "It sounds simple, but those words are imprinted on my heart forever. It helped me come out of my fear."
Aside from life at church, living with HIV at work proved impossible. She had to quit her job as a lab technician because of the discrimination she faced and as a result, began working for an organization called INP+ (India Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS). She started working there as an outreach worker, and eventually went on to receive a master's degree in psychology in order to better serve the men and women she was counseling in the field.
"I had to get a list of people from the blood bank that tested positive for HIV, and I would visit their homes and provide counseling to the families," Daisy says. "Sometimes it would take me weeks to locate the families in the slums or villages, and I would arrive only to find out that the person had died, leaving behind a widow or orphan. Looking at the conditions of those widows and children pained and burdened my heart very much."
INP's mission is to improve the quality of life and provide a sense of belonging for people living with HIV in India. The organization also seeks to reduce further HIV transmission.
"After seeing the HIV widows and listening to the problems they faced, I would always ask God why I got infected with HIV," Daisy says. "But many times I have thought that maybe I got infected with HIV only to help these women and widows."
Throughout Daisy's journey as an advocate and counselor with INP, and now World Vision, she has been a catalyst for change. She was the first woman in India to raise her voice for free distribution of ART, Anti-Retroviral Therapy (a term used for a combination of drugs that attempts to control the burden of HIV on the body), and has successfully gained rights for free distribution for hundreds of people in India. The ART drugs are used in different stages of the HIV life-cycle, and are crucial for the survival of people living with HIV. Daisy understands the importance of fighting for this treatment because for patients in need, receiving it or not could mean life or death.
Daisy's success in advocacy provided her an opportunity to become the first ever Greater Involvement of People Living With HIV and AIDS (GIPA) advisor, and the ability to co-found the Tamil Nadu State Level Network (TNSLN), the first state-level organization in the country to support networks of people living with HIV/AIDS.
These jobs led her to her current position with World Vision India as an advocacy officer.
"The environment, the culture, and the everyday prayer at the World Vision office help me ventilate my worries and problems before my colleagues and the Lord," Daisy says. "The group prayers we have twice a week have given me the space to share with others what God speaks to me every day."
After her husband died, Daisy says the prayers of her 79-year-old mother are what keep her going strong in both her career and home life.
"Above everything, the fact that someone is always praying for me, my health, my problems, or mentioning my name every day gives me a sense of great hope and strength to move on," Daisy says.
Although Daisy is very loved by her co-workers and family, she sometimes struggles with loneliness, and living with HIV.
"Since I live alone, going back home after work is sometimes depressing," Daisy says. "But I find comfort in prayer, spending time with my friends, and sometimes watching television."
Her daily struggles do not discourage her from her journey with the Lord. Daisy often finds herself relying on 2 Corinthians 12:9: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness."
Daisy hopes and prays that the world will look at people living with HIV/AIDS with respect and dignity, just like anyone else. "Women should intentionally seek knowledge and build their understanding about HIV to protect themselves, and to fight for their rights."
Cassie Jolene Schenck is an editorial intern at Today's Christian Woman. Follow her on Twitter @cassie_jolene91.