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 Tuesday 04 May 2010
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Mazhar Anjum, "It's not easy being a hijra in this society"
February 2009 (PlusNews)

Photo: Sumaira Jajja/IRIN
"It's not easy being a hijra in this society"
KARACHI, 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.

See related stories from Pakistan:
Marginalised male sex workers vulnerable to HIV/AIDS
Sex work a dangerous game
Male sex workers play Russian roulette with HIV

"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.

See also:
ASIA: Regional meeting highlights vulnerability of MSM
CAMBODIA: Focus on MSM and the spread of HIV/AIDS
NEPAL: HIV awareness amongst MSM still low
AFRICA: Homophobia fuelling the spread of HIV
CAMBODIA: "Sometimes I get regular women, sometimes I hire lady-boys"
KAZAKHSTAN: MSM group works to raise HIV awareness

"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."



[The above testimony is provided by IRIN, a humanitarian news service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.]

IRIN welcomes editorial and photographic submissions for inclusion on this page, reserving the right to select and edit as appropriate.
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