NEW DELHI, India — If you ask any Indian what the most important day of their life will be, odds are they’ll say the day they get married.
But imagine you were an HIV positive Indian with no prospective husband or wife in sight.
What would you do?
While HIV infections have decreased in the sub-continent, the stigma and discrimination against those with the virus has lingered.
Some Indians have dangerously opted to not disclose their status to their partner for fear of rejection.
But thousands of lonely hearts have found salvation from a free matrimonial website called PositiveSaathi.com, which unites HIV-positive men and women.
Anil Valiv, 43, a transportation officer in Pune in the Indian state of Maharashtra, has played cupid since 2006. His passion for social work led him to set up the website after he, along with the help of a local hospital, began testing drivers for HIV, through his work at the Regional Transport Office.
It was during this time that a doctor told him about an HIV positive man so desperate to get married that if he didn’t find someone soon, he was going to marry a healthy woman without disclosing his status.
Valiv also witnessed an HIV-positive friend suffer alone in silence. “Nobody supported my friend. No one was willing to visit him. He was shunned by his own friends and family before he passed away,” he told the Global Post.
Valiv was inspired to launch the site.
“Now I work as a match-maker,” he said. “People with HIV looking for marriage is very difficult.”
Since the website’s inception, more than 5000 HIV-positive people have registered. Nearly two-thirds are from rural areas.
Mr Valiv said it was difficult to determine how many people he had helped successfully tie the knot but said it was in the hundreds.