Khayuum & Roshan: Keeping Hope Alive
Khayuum, age 30, ran away from his parents’ home in Vikhroli at fifteen years of age and took to the streets of Mumbai. It was not long before he began using drugs, throwing him into a vicious cycle of addiction. Eventually, he started using brown sugar – a crude form of heroin common amongst street-based injecting drug users (IDUs). For thirteen long years he was trapped in his addiction, approaching ‘rock bottom,’ until in 2008, he reached out for help to Sankalp’s Chayya Drop-in Centre (DIC) at Mumbai Central. After two months of painstaking work he made a successful recovery and has been clean for over two years now.
However, during the course of his treatment, he tested positive for HIV due to sharing of unclean needles, unfortunately a typical practice amongst many IDUs. Sankalp works to educate the IDU community on safe needle usage techniques and has implemented a needle-exchange program. This allows IDUs to bring in their used needles and syringes to exchange them for clean ones, helping to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis-C. Understandably, Khayuum was very upset about his test results, but soon his determination for recovery earned him a place as Peer Educator at the Mumbai Central DIC. That was when he met Roshan.
Roshan, age 23 and former resident of Kalyan, was married at age thirteen. After the birth of their son they separated. When Roshan was 17, the death of her father prompted her to begin using drugs and, subsequently, to fall into a serious addiction. Because of her addiction, Roshan’s son was taken away by her sister-in-law who to this day refuses to return him. Roshan came to Sankalp’s DIC at Grant Road, a center catering exclusively to women. She began a course of Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST), received regular counseling from the peer counselor Meena, and began participating in some of Sankalp’s income generation projects, such as building toy trains.
During her recovery, she met Khayuum and they fell in love. “We decided to marry and build a life together,” says Khayuum. He continued, “I was counseled to be open with Roshan regarding my HIV status. She thought about it and was willing to make the sacrifice of not having any children.” Khayuum and Roshan found a small place to live by the Mumbai Central DIC, surrounded by a community of families. “Little children always are playing on the street, brightening the grim atmosphere with their chatter and laughter,” says Khayuum and Roshan. Although they had decided not to have any children they wished they could have some of their own.
They took a chance and conceived a child. Roshan found out very late that she was pregnant, but aware of Khayuum’s HIV+ status, she thought of having an abortion. She discussed it with a counselor from Sankalp who told her that as long as she tested negative for HIV, the baby would be fine as the baby can only contract the virus from the mother.
Currently, Roshan and Khayuum are able to make ends meet on Rs. 1500 a month that he earns from his peer educator stipend. They are now living happily together with their new baby boy. Although their lives may not be perfect they feel blessed to be a healthy and happy family, but, moving forward, they have decided to practice completely safe relations.
Written by Madhura Padwal. This story appeared in our fall 2010 newsletter.