Socio-economic challenges faced by widows living with HIV/AIDS in New Delhi, India

Tarun Monga


With an estimated number of 40 million, India is the home to the largest number of widows in the world. Widows are often subjected to deep societal, cultural, psychological and economic deprivation in the name of traditions. Deep seated patriarchal roots and unquestioned customs place widows at a defenseless position. They are often disdained, stigmatized, abused and marginalized from the mainstream. A diagnosis of HIV further exacerbates the challenges of widowhood as now these HIV positive widows battle dual marginalization: being a widow and suffering from HIV. Diagnosis of HIV coupled with cultural factors which look down upon widows adds on to already existing inferior status of widows. Paucity of literature related to HIV positive widows led to the conception of the present study. The present paper attempts to study the impact of HIV positive status upon the social and economic lives of HIV positive widows.  Sample of 50 HIV positive widows was selected using Purposive Sampling from HIV clinic at New Delhi, India. Semi-structured interview was used to collect the data. Data was analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively. The results drew attention towards the age-old thought process of blaming the woman for the death of her husband as widely prevalent. The widows were subjected to intense forms of physical violence, rejection and abandonment. HIV was seen with “sexual connotations” which resulted in stigma and discrimination. However, economic instability emerged as a towering challenge among the respondents amidst already prevailing conditions of abject poverty. An interesting finding concerning the loss of self-identity among the respondents emerged. It was found that the respondents had no understanding of their own identity and meaning of life. This finding is of much significance as it indicates deeply engrained patriarchal roots in society where the self of a woman is not allowed to evolve and thus, get remained to the children, husbands and others around her.


HIV, Widows, Socio-economic challenges, Stigma and discrimination, Economic instability, Self-identity

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