In his early twenties when he he had just got married a year back, life was at it s best for Mahantesh Mali. Working in industries in Udyambag he was leading a happy life. But this was not to be, on his birthday it self in 1993 he was diagnosed for being HIV positive. It was a shock of life time for him. He then became very weak and doctors said that he could live for another two years for a maximum. Mahantesh was out of his mind and he was grasping end to be very near. He weighed only 28 kgs in 1994 and could not even drink water, he was just a piece of bones.
The thought that he would die was eating him. His wife stood next to him not knowing what had happened to her husband. She decided to live life positively and encouraged Mahantesh to look at life positively and one day he too decided that, lets face it and he removed all the bad thoughts from his mind and decided to work for the welfare of HIV positive patients. He was very good at speaking and making one understand in his own language. With time two years passed by and nothing happened to him. This gave him more confidence to enjoy life and take it as it comes and today in 2010 Mahantesh Mali is the president of the Spandana network which looks after the welfare of HIV patients.
He is healthy and takes only a single medicine and is now father of a two year old (HIV Negative) child leading a happy life with his wife and many children.
Yes many children, he just started Nandana Makkala Dhama which houses 30 children from various areas of Belgaum district who are all HIV positives and all have been either left off by their parents or they have no one to take care of.
Nandana Makkala Dhama is an initiative of staff of Spandana Network with Mr.Mahantesh R Mali at the helm of affiars. The Makkala Dhama formally inaugurated by Mr. Manjunath BH, Regional Commissioner, Belgaum and Dr. Ashok Muragod, District Superintendent, Belgaum on 31st December 2008.
The staffs of the Spandana Network decided to start an orphan home for the HIV positive children feeling their needs in the district. The staffs contributed their one month salary for this noble cause. The network also did an advocacy with Children and Welfare Department and succeeded to get a building for 10 years. The Honorable Minister Mr. Balachandra Jarkiholi donated an Ambulance for this cause.
This is the first such hostel in north Karnataka working without any government aid.
What is that you would like to say to all about HIV positives?
Nobody dies of AIDS they all die of fear and stigma. It is our duty to spread awareness so that society treats people living with HIV with care and compassion. Social stigma and discrimination killed more people than AIDS. However, the situation was changing as HIV infected people were being accepted by general public. HIV positive people lose immunity and were prone to diseases such as TB, diarrhoea, etc. Providing medicines for such people should be the priority of government hospitals.
Have you got any support from the local MP and MLA’s?
(Laughs) He says we call all of them but we have not received any concrete help anyone local MLA’s and MP’s. We had called Mr.Angadi many a times but he still hasnt visited our functions. Only Mr. Balachandra Jarkiholi donated an ambulance and has promised to construct a building once we get land for our Makkala Dham.
How do you identify these children?
We are on tour on 5 days in various parts of the district and then we try and identify children who are positives or who have been left off by their parents or their parents have expired. We have identified about 700 HIV positives in Belgaum district but we cannot manage all of them dude to lack of funds hence we are only looking after 30 students.
What is that you do at this Makkala Dham?
We get these children from rural areas like Hukkeri, Raibag, Gokak, Savadatti and surrounding areas teach them here for a year and then make arrangements to shift them to govt. school for actual schooling.
During this time we take complete care of them with medicines, food and shelter.
Some of your experiences while working in this field?
Mostly all are bad, but one incident which still hurts me is the case of a school building in Bassavan Kolla(behind Hindalco) which was lying un utilized as the school was shifted from there to a more bigger building. We got permission from all the authorities and just before the day we were supposed to take possession of the building the villagers opposed this and said that we wont allow HIV positive children around our village. Still the said building is lying un utilized for over 8 months now. This stigma from the minds of the people needs to be removed.
How do you manage the expenses of the Makkala Dham?
All the expenses are borne by the staff of Spanadana network. We pay Rs.4000 as rent for the building and then there are food, clothing expenses. Noble people do come forward and donate food, clothing etc but we dont have a continuous inflow of funds.
We really want to expand to our own building but we dont have funds.
There are very noble people around like Mr.Mahesh who donated a TV and a satellite connection so that the children can watch TV. Mahesh also arranged parties on his birthday at the Dham.
One good experience is also has to be mentioned. Just next our present building in Sadashiv nagar we had to open another office under a separate scheme of the Govt. where only registration of the patients would be done. But a lady of the apartment opposed this and field a police complaint. All the residents also joined in, but we explained them that this was only a center for registration and nothing else. But still they did not hear. After a few days of working over there the lady herself came forward and gave us the space for the second office.
What are your current needs?
Our current needs are many but we need cots (muti level) so that we can accommodate all the children in the small space we have. If any one is interested in donating anything they can contact me. It can be in kind or otherwise.
What are your future plans?
Future plan is to build a own building for the Makkala Dham and try and get more children in it.
Do you work only for HIV patients or others as well?
We mainly work for HIV patients but we work for others as well. A few months back there was a old man suffering from leprosy lying on the main road towards KLE hospital. We immediately bought some clothes for him gave him water and called the leprosy mission and got him admitted there. We have performed last rites on 17 people till now with the help of Mr.More Ex mayor.
About Spandana Network:
Spandana Network is a registered society working for and by people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) in Belgaum. It was started in 2005. Spandana Network Belgaum is affiliated to Karnataka Network for people living with HIV/AIDS, a State network of people living with HIV/AIDS. Spandana Network is working in Belgaum District from last four years. Network has registered 4500 PLHIVs including 600 children in which 50 children are orphan or semi orphan (Single Parent). 62 people work under the network selflessly to create awareness about HIV in entire Belgaum district.
At Spandana its not only awareness creation or giving medicines the consecrated staff of the network work all the time to identify people affected with HIV throughout the district and with the same also perform last rites on people who cannot afford or dont want to perform the last rites as the person has died being HIV positive.
On the other side at Spandana they have also managed to marry 17 couples together all being HIV positives. All the married couples are now happily leading a new lease of life.
Nandana Makkala Dhama
Mahantesh R Mali
4th Cross, Nidhi Building, Near Kannada Marathi primary school, Sadashiv Nagar Belgaum.