Grab a tissue before getting in to an emotional story of Noori Saleem. Born as a transgender in Ramanathapuram district she was kicked out of her family at age of 13.With spirits set high, she gave new hope to people living with HIV/AIDS by introducing antiretroviral treatment in 31 districts in India.
Being a transgender, the hardships she faced were terrifying. She says “The pressure from my community were dreadful. They said that they would have killed me if I were born to them”. My neighbours blamed me for things I didn’t do. My parents tortured me more because of the societal pressure. I had to leave my studies since I was continuously insulted in school for my mannerisms. Then, I was forced to leave my house when I was 13. Life was tough, not at all an easy one when I left my home. I didn’t have anyone for me or a place to stay. I met a transgender in a railway station who advised me to take up a job as a bar dancer or a sex worker. I always wanted to do a decent job and so I asked him to help me with a different option. Fortunately I was sent to Chennai to work in a house as a maid which did not last long. I had to rush back to my home when I heard about my father’s serious illness. Few days later he passed away. My mother wanted me to get married to a girl. I was scared and ran out of my home again. But this time I went to Mumbai and stayed in a commune for three years and earned good money to convert myself to women. I came back to Chennai and got married to one of my close friend but I was never treated well in the society. Nevertheless, I always had my husband who supported me.
I struggled a lot to meet the very basic needs. In order to survive in this world, I become a sex worker. On July 22nd 1987 I discovered my HIV positive status. I was completely devastated but I was determined to get treated. However when I went to the hospital and wrote my name as a female, they objected to it. I fought with them and said, I am a female, how can you tell me to wait in a men’s queue? Then I went to the men’s queue and they objected to that too. Finally at the end of the day I managed to get my treatment. My husband was the only person who was putting up with all my issues but unfortunately he died in a helicopter crash in Sri Lanka.
There is no other pain than who face stigma like PLHA (People Living with HIV) particularly the women in transgender community. Today I am on Second line ARV (antiretroviral) treatment. It is so difficult for transgender person to get even a first line ARV (antiretroviral) treatment. So I do not know when we will get even a first line ARV treatment free from the government. It is a dream for us!
I started working as a community actionist. I opened an NGO “South Indian Positive Network” in the memory of my three friends Selvi,Indra & Pazhani who passed away due to HIV . My aim was to serve all the people who were infected with HIV. I have a lot of friends at UNAIDS to thank, for sponsoring my treatment cost. It is because of them that I am where I am, standing and fighting HIV and AIDS along with several of my friends who suffer from it.
Postings and Achievements of S. Noori Saleem:
- Government of Tamil Nadu has awarded the chairman Noori, the life time award.
- Government of Tamil Nadu has awarded the chairman Noori as the best social worker.
- Noori was the President of South India Positive Network 2001 to till date.
- Noori was the Joint Secretary of Indian Network of Positive Network for HIV Positive people in 1998.
- Noori was the Coordinator of South Asia TIDES Foundation (2005 to 2008).
- Noori was the member of Tamil Nadu Transgender Welfare Board in 2008.
- Noori was the member of the Executive Committee member of Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society 2008.
- Noori was the Executive Secretary of TASA (TAMIL NADU AIDS SOLIDARITY ACTION) Network 2008.
- Noori was the Vice President of India People Alliance Combating HIV/AIDS (IPACHA) 2009.
- Noori was the Board Member of Asia Pacific Alliance Combating HIV/AIDS (APACHA) 2008.
- Noori was the ART sharing committee member in 2008.
- Noori was the World’s First President of Chennai Gemini Thirunangai Lions Club 2007.
- Noori attended around 22 Conferences regarding HIV/AIDS in different Countries, apart from conferences in India.
- Noori has participated in various television programmers.