PAKISTAN: Mazhar Anjum, "It's not easy being a hijra in this society"
"It's not easy being a hijra in this society"
Karachi, 17 February 2009 (IRIN) - Mazhar Anjum is an HIV-positive transgender (hijra) sex worker and part of an outreach team at an NGO dealing with HIV-positive people in Karachi, the largest metropolis in Pakistan. He told IRIN/PlusNews about the difficulties faced by the transgender community.
"Its not easy being a hijra is this society, but is it our fault that we are like this?
"My earliest memories are those when I would go around helping my mother in household chores and play with my sister's dolls or dress up as a woman - things that were a 'no, no' for a boy.
"I finally left my home town and went to Lahore, where I worked as a dancer in Pakistan's famous Lucky Irani Circus, and then later moved to Dubai [in United Arab Emirates] to work as a housekeeping staffer.
"I fell ill in Dubai and knew that if I had a serious condition [like tuberculosis, HIV or a sexually transmitted infection] I would be deported from there. I came to Karachi and got myself tested for HIV.
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"Though my earlier results in Dubai were negative, this time the test came out positive. I felt my whole world collapsed around me when I got the news that I was HIV positive.
"Though I had heard a lot about how lethal it [HIV/AIDS] could be, I had no other information about it ... I was so ill that I needed help with eating or dressing up but my sister took it upon herself to see to my well-being.
"The people from New Light [testing clinic] took me to hospitals and made sure I got my antiretrovirals and medicines, as without them I would have been shunned by public and private hospitals because of my HIV status.
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"When the news of my HIV status got out, my chaylas [apprentices] left me and people from my community [transgenders] shunned me ... Now that I am well and financially stable, the people who had shunned me want to be friends.
"I tell [other hijra sex workers], 'Do whatever you want to, but play safe.' Sadly, very few of them listen. Their customers/partners force them not to use condoms as they do not find it pleasurable enough.
"I meet HIV-positive men, women and transgenders who feel helpless and in an emotionally vulnerable state, and when I tell them that I am an HIV-positive person and give them my example, initially they are surprised but eventually they do open up to me."
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]