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For India's HIV positive, a new matrimonial website

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For the past decade, many Indians diagnosed with HIV have had access to free antiretroviral drugs.

That access to low-cost generic medicines has meant HIV-positive patients are living longer lives. A new website recognizes that many of those don't want to live alone, while acknowledging the hurdles faced by HIV positive people in forming new romantic relationships.

PositiveSaathi.com is a new free matrimonial website aimed at Indians who are HIV positive. Saathi is the Hindi word for friend or partner, and the website has a big potential audience.

According to the activist group Avert, at least 2.1 million Indians have HIV, 53 per cent of whom are found on four southern states - Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu.

The website has already attracted more than 5,000 people who have registered.

"There are thousands of girls and boys who want to get married and live the life more positively," says an introduction on PositiveSaathi.com. "There are many other diseases like cancer and brain tumor which are more dangerous and life–threatening than HIV/AIDS. But a HIV+ve person never tells anybody that he is HIV+ve. The search of a HIV+ve life partner ends before starting because of this reason."

According to a report on the BBC, India’s HIV epidemic varies across its 28 states. The four states with the highest number of people living with HIV (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu) are all in the south, and account for 53 percent of all HIV infections in India.

Nearly two-thirds of those registered with PositiveSaathi.com are from rural areas. That's noteworthy considering internet access in Indian villages is poor, and around 250 of those registered are Indians living abroad.

Website founder Anil Valiv, a government worker in Maharashtra, has organised nearly a dozen "matrimonial meetings" for those who have registered on the website.

Rick Westhead is a foreign affairs writer at The Star. He was based in India as the Star’s South Asia bureau chief from 2008 until 2011 and reports on international aid and development. Follow him on Twitter @rwesthead



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