Ravi Kittur, the compassionate matchmaker bridging hearts speaks to South First about his mission to get HIV-positive patients married.
For those ostracised, ignored, and sidelined by society, companionship does not just mean having someone. It becomes hope for the future when the company is enjoyed, adding meaning to life.
In situations where the truth hinders the possibility of having a lifelong companionship, people often lie, as the desire for belonging burns in their hearts, Ravi Kittur realised in 2008.
The realisation shocked him. Kittur was then working in a modest Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) centre of a district hospital as a counsellor when he came across instances in which some of his male HIV patients hid their condition to get married.
Kittur could have ignored it, but he took upon himself the mission to find suitable partners for the HIV-infected. Today, at the age of 51, the Vijayapura resident stands tall as a beacon of hope. So far he has brought together more than 400 couples — all HIV-infected — who have been happily living fruitful lives.
His guiding principle is simple: Everyone deserves love and care regardless of their health status.
On 1 December, World AIDS Day, South First caught up with Kittur.
“While working as a counsellor for young HIV-positive patients, I noticed several of them hesitating to reveal their HIV status to their prospective brides and families, and marrying silently. It means all our efforts in creating awareness have gone in vain. It also meant that I had failed as a counsellor. So, after two-three such cases, I realised something should be done,” he said.
Kittur decided to take the initiative to ensure that HIV-infected unmarried patients should marry only those with the same condition.
Between 1993 and 1998, Kittur worked among sex workers in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Goa to prevent HIV/AIDS by promoting the use of condoms and also creating awareness about HIV.
In 1998, he joined the Bijapur District Hospital as a Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) counsellor. Then, in 2006, he joined the ART centre where he realised that loneliness could trigger risky behavour in HIV-positive individuals. He also realised that in a stable, informed marital relationship, they could find support and love, reducing the impulse for unsafe practices.
Kittur then began to collect personal details of the HIV patients, who were young and of marriageable age. He also checked if they wanted to get married, their caste, willingness for an inter-caste marriage, and their expectations of a partner.
“It was almost like a mini marriage bureau. I would collect all the information and begin to search for a match. Meanwhile, I even began to counsel these men and women that they cannot marry an HIV-negative person. I also convinced them that they can get married and live a happy life and have healthy children if they marry someone who’s HIV-positive,” Kittur explained.
There are several myths and misconceptions surrounding HIV/AIDS, especially when it comes to marriage and relationships.
“These myths can lead to stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS,” he said. The most common one he had come across was the belief that marrying an HIV/AIDS patient could lead to a viral count increase in the infected individual.
Many believe that being HIV-positive means a shortened, unhappy life. However, with modern ART, people with HIV can lead long, healthy lives and enjoy fulfilling relationships and marriages, Kittur explained.
He also pointed out another misconception that HIV could communicate through touching, kissing, or sharing utensils. “It is not true. HIV is transmitted through specific biofluids like blood, semen, vaginal and rectal fluids, and breast milk. This myth can lead to unnecessary fear and avoidance of people living with HIV,” he said.
He added that people often mistakenly believe that HIV-positive individuals cannot have HIV-negative children. With proper medical intervention and ART, the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV could be reduced to less than one percent, he asserted.
Another myth, he said, is that HIV-positive couples or couples where one partner is HIV-positive cannot have a healthy sexual relationship. With appropriate precautions and treatment, these couples can have a fulfilling and safe sexual relationship, Kittur clarified.
He also discarded the belief that people with HIV should not marry or have relationships.
“There is so much stigma and people assume that all individuals with HIV have contracted it through promiscuity or irresponsible behavior. HIV can be transmitted in various ways, including from mother to child during birth or breastfeeding. Such assumptions are hurtful and untrue. I am trying to dispel these myths too,” he said.
Kittur’s approach is practical and empathetic. He helps couples access medication that prevents the transmission of HIV to their unborn children and ensures a safer and healthier future for the next generation.
After seeing that Kittur’s efforts have paid off and several couples are leading a happy married life with HIV-negative children, the Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society included his model as part of its awareness programmes and even held matrimonial meets in a few districts and helped hundreds of couples get married.
Kittur said he has a list of nearly 4,000 HIV-positive individuals seeking partners.
“My phone number is available in almost all districts of Karnataka. The Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society (KSAPS) has acknowledged my efforts and has even made facilities for matrimonial meetings of HIV/AIDS patients in several districts. I am proud to see the couples happily married and have even delivered HIV-negative children,” he explained.
Kittur said if any HIV-positive patient expresses interest in getting married, s/he is now referred to him.
Many couples across Karnataka have named their children Ravi.
“It encourages me to support more such people. I don’t do anything for appreciation but my mission is to reduce the number of HIV infections and promote the right awareness. Several couples bring their HIV-negative children to me and say they have named their son Ravi. I just smile and wish them luck,” Kittur smiled.
Ravi Kittur can be contacted on 92414 14899.