Field Coordinator, Lanka Plus, Sri Lanka
APCOM HERO Awards 2022 Honouree for the HIV Hero category
In 2004, I was employed at a factory in South Korea as a painter and was doing well for myself. In that year, I was scheduled to undergo a surgery on my back and blood samples were taken by the hospital authorities to conduct tests. A week later, I was asked to give my details to the hospital laboratory. Two days later, immigration authorities arrived at the factory where I was employed, arrested me, and took me away in handcuffs.
When I boarded their van, I was told by them that I have AIDS. At that time I didn’t have a proper knowledge of AIDS. They kept me cuffed to an iron bar in the van the entire day until they finished all their work. In the evening, I was taken to a detention centre and kept there for the night. When I asked for some water they refused and when I insisted that I need to go to the washroom, they sent me with an accomplice and warned him to be careful with me as I have AIDS. The next morning, they sent me to Sri Lanka using my own money.
After arriving in Sri Lanka, I took another test from a private hospital who confirmed that I am HIV positive. The doctor there recommended that I go to an organization called Lanka Plus which works for the welfare of people like me – people who are HIV positive.
Since then I have been an active member of Lanka Plus and have worked in the capacity of a field-coordinator. During my work over the past 18 years, I have been able to interact closely with the grassroots level of the people living with HIV (PLHIV) community as well as other marginalised communities such as LGBTQIs. There have been other occasions where I have faced discrimination and have seen other PLHIVs face discrimination. For example, as a diabetes patient, I was referred by the STD clinic to obtain diabetes-related testing at the General Hospital in Colombo. There, I was told that they cannot do an eye test for me as I was HIV positive.
My work with Lanka Plus has taken me to many places and has given me the opportunity to attend many sessions where I was able to voice the concerns of the PLHIV community and fight for my and their rights.
Read his full interview for the APCOM HERO Awards
Thelge Tiran Daison Edward Peiris