Working in the Middle East and HIV

Click image to listen to translated audio

Nirmala Kumari worked as a domestic worker in the Middle East for nearly ten years. She earned a good salary—especially when compared to Indian standards for the same work. She wired most of her earnings to her husband every month to help care for their two sons and saved some for a ticket back to India every two years.

While she was thousands of miles away for those long years, her husband visited prostitutes using the very money Nirmala sent home.

Nirmala is one of hundreds of thousands of Indian men and women who work in the Gulf as menial laborers doing the jobs native Arabs refuse. The distance and airfare keep them in the Middle East for years at a time.

The long periods of separation can lead to indiscretions. The problem is compounded within extended families. A young woman diagnosed as HIV positive confided to a social worker in Hyderabad that her brother-in-law had frequently raped her while her husband worked in the Middle East. Another man described his need for companionship while his wife was away.

Nirmala, now 35, says she continued to love her husband even after she discovered his infidelity. She continued to love him as he died of AIDS. HIV positive herself, she hopes to rebuild her life. She would like to return to Dubai to earn higher wages but worries about her health once she runs out of the ARVs supplied by the Indian government. Nirmala says she would not dare seek medical treatment for the disease in the Middle East—a sure-fire way to be deported.

Click the image above to view English captions while Nirmala speaks.

Listen to her in Telugu.


3 Responses to “Working in the Middle East and HIV”

  1. Anonymous says:

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    epidemic. I appreciate the honesty and “rawness” of all the pictures and the stories. They are filled with hope, sadness, anger, and survival!

    Thank you for sharing your work!

    Shalini Eddens
    Women Organized To Respond to Life Threatening
    Disease, (WORLD)
    Oakland, California

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    ([email protected])

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