Monty's Story

Monty is a 33-year old man from Manipur. He has been taking drugs of different kinds since he was 14. Monty was admitted to a rehab centre for drugs and alcohol. He got to know he was HIV positive when he was tested on entry to the program.
I have many sexual partners. Mostly l pick up students; they do it sometimes for money and sometimes for fun. I never use condoms with them. I used to steal from my business, from my mother, and even smuggle things to support my heroin habit.

I was married 4-5 years back in 1988, and we separated in 1991-92. I have an eight-year-old daughter, Suzanne. She is so big and is not ill- she must be negative. They say positive children only live 4-5 years. Sometimes l feel l should tell her l will die soon, but fear she will look down on me. My mother sends money for Suzanne. I do not earn, but l have enough money to live on.

I have one girlfriend, sort of. I know everything about her, and she knows about me - l tell her everything. She does not know that l am positive. I do not have the courage to tell her, she too will look down on me. There will be the stigma - 'He has AIDS'.

She must be positive. She must also know all about HIV and AIDS. She knows we never use condoms, and she knows about my drugs. I even told her once to get herself tested. "Go for a check up," l told her….she might have another boyfriend. She takes money from me sometimes. Money for sex? No it's more than that - l have helped her get a job, l help her out many times.

If l tell her, she will get mad. She'll ditch me or maybe she will blackmail me - for money and for revenge. She will be very hurt emotionally. She is closer to me than l am to her. Both our parents know we are seeing each other. The only thing is that l do not want to get married to her. Marriage has lots of responsibilities. I have made a mistake once and do not want to repeat it.

I think that she does not know yet that she is positive. She does not use drugs. Actually, l am not sure if she had another boyfriend or not, l may be justifying my actions thinking so. Fifty percent is justification, and fifty percent l know she goes to parties and has fun. The point is l cannot do anything and neither can she. I have been with her for three years now, and she must be positive. I cannot undo it.

I have used condoms with my girlfriend twice. Once l told her that it was because of my high-risk behaviour, and once l told her that she shouldn't get pregnant - this is only an excuse because she uses a pill, so l told her l have never tried condoms before, and the experience would be new for me. Then l stopped using them because l didn't like the sensation. I thought she was probably already infected, so..

After knowing that l am positive, l thought l should use my own needles. I did not want my friends to get it. But everyone must be positive anyway. In Manipur it is very common for people to be positive. If we are seen carrying a needle here, we can be put into jail, so we take whoever's syringe is available. Nothing strikes when the craving is so much - we don't care, we just fix.

Even before l got myself tested, l was sure l would be positive because of all the awareness programs. Now new complications have emerged: l have TB and diabetes. The programme here is very tough. We even meditate, but l have a problem with GOD, which l am trying to sort out. I am trying my best. My family told me it's either detox or jail. I have been jailed six times and it's much harder than detox. So l am here again.

My relationship with Suzanne is not very good. I was always busy fixing when she was younger and did not have any time for her. I feel she could start hating me, her mother may tell her all sorts of things. My wife refuses to sign divorce papers. I think she keeps hoping to get back with me. We do not live nearby, but we meet through friends. She was a schoolteacher, but now she's at home with parents.

My wife and l broke up because l get very violent when l am drunk. I have creaed a lot of trouble for her. I didn't spend time with her - my friends used to come over, we used to have a party and drink. I did not come home at night. This is the way l am. We had a fight the day we broke up. I told her if she cannot accept me this way….this is my life and she cannot interfere in it….then she has to make a choice. She ran to her sister and l did not see her again for 7-8 months. Her mother came once with Suzanne to patch up. She was also saying that it was my fault. I accept it now, but then l had my pride. She is Hindu; l am Christian. I blamed her religion, her family, mother, everyone. We have been separated since then.

I want Suzanne to stay with me. I have property that l would like to leave her. When she is 10 years old, the father has some rights. I want Suzanne because l hold a grudge against my wife. My resentment is that she never tried to understand me even though she knows my personal problems. I think l still love her, l want to make amends, but my addictive personality says no. I think that l should change first and then think about it. But l don't think l'll get back with her because if she is negative, l do not want to take the risk. Why should l warn her? If she is spreading it unknowingly, then let her. She can carry on doing it.

My mother understands that l am positive, she understands me. I have told my sisters who live there. They have not told anyone else. I just cannot let it out that l am positive. They will kick me out - Manipur is a very small society. I come from a well-known family. We are business people and my uncle is in politics. The stigma there is really strong. If anyone is suspected to have HIV, they are tied up and shackled. They are not given any medicine. In some detox centres, they give you a Bible instead of medicine. In Churachandpur, just south of Manipur, they had to close up a well because the IV users there would commit suicide by jumping in.

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