The Association of people living with HIV-Pakistan, commonly known as the APLHIV was established in 2006. But it took about two years for the APLHIV to become more effective and a visible entity. In 2008 the APLHIV started implementing various projects from Institutionalization to national level project like Stigma Index project in 2009. One of the flagging issues that the APLHIV faced was a leadership from within community, capable enough to break the barriers and let the organization to work for vision and mission for which the founders established it. Up to 2011, despite the fact that APLHIV is a community based organization but ironically it was lead and managed by non community members. Only two persons from within the communities were appointed to run the show but both of them had been shown the way back to pavilion sooner than later. Non positive leadership used the APLHIV as a launching pad for them to have access to higher corridors.  From 2006 to 2011, the APLHIV remained confined to one room office located in a building where a reasonable person was unable to adjust. Only 2 members from within the community were there but on lower posts, having no say in the affairs, contrary to the principles of GIPA. The 1st Federal Board had some prominent activists from within the community, who did an appreciable job to establish the organization, but then normal life came in and they got busy with their own community based organizations, which today are doing a commendable job for provision of HIV treatment, care and support services to the community. Departure of the founder board members and arrival of new members was a more politically derived motion which reduced the acceptance of the APLHIV as national network. Rather the management led by non positive leaders followed the principle of “Divide and Rule”.

The donor agencies in general and the UNAIDS country office in particular provided all out support to the APLHIV not only for its sustainability but for its strengthening as well. But the lack of leadership from within community was very visible to all the stakeholders. “I have invested million of Rupees in the APLHIV, but what is the result”, these were the remarks of the then UCC-UNAIDS country office, I will not give even a single penny more without visible changes are in place, added the UCC. A little while ago the APLHIV got on board for one of the projects under APN+ and funded by the Global Fund, but the Manager Grant Management Unit (GMU) once gave remarks “The APLHIV- Pakistan is at high risk for this grant and we have no expectation at all. Might be we have to terminate the contract…” added the Manager GMU. One can easily find out where the APLHIV stood at that time and how much good or bad repute it enjoyed.

But the days of crises for the APLHIV had been counted probably. The GMU clearly asked the Management at the APLHIV to select the Project Coordinator through a transparent, fair and merit based system. The Management had no option other than to follow this. This was the time when through competitive process a Coordinator from within the community was selected and probably that was the day of change. 16th January 2012. A broad based selection panel comprising of representatives from UN agencies, board members, CCM and NACP completed the process to select the suitable person for the job and I was the one selected for the post.

It was just over three (3) months that I had been diagnosed as HIV+. I belonged to a well off family but these three (3) months had changed my life, way of thinking and objectives of my life. I openly talked to my family members and I informed them about my decision to use my qualifications, abilities and capabilities for the HIV community. But off course I had no line of action in my mind, as I had no experience of work in development sector. However I dedicated myself to gather as much of the information as I could by searching internet. Soon I was equipped with reasonable amount of knowledge about how I shall move about. The vision that I had in my mind was supported by all the relevant stakeholders and I was encouraged accordingly. The issues that I faced and the challenges that I faced right from within the office, a high level of stigma and discrimination was visible but I opted to fight back not only the HIV infection but also the stigma and discrimination that I was facing from within the office. There was no way back for me and I accepted the challenges and accepted everything from good to bad without creating a fuss. It took me couple of month to present myself to yet another broad based selection panel for my selection as National Coordinator. I remember it took me around 2 hours to answer the questions of selection panel, who were probably satisfied and within next couple of days I was asked to lead the organization.

The basic focus of my struggle was to develop a team which could stand with in all odds, so that the APLHIV can become a launching pad for the community. Sometimes I had to be hard and harsh, some time I had to be friendly but always caring and loving to make the new team,” A team from the Ashes that I got”. The nature was with me and I could see the change very imminent and it took me just not more than couple of week to make a strong team of professionals and a strong support of a unified board, the unity of the board was an inspiring force for me. The community activists were approached, the stakeholders were contacted and efforts were made to take all of them on board. Some time I had to travel at my own arrangement to other cities for this coordination and networking due to lack of available resources. Sooner than later I could find the acceptability of the APLHIV within the community and role players. The project activities continued side by side. During same time and during implementation phase of one of the project, I could identify some colleagues from within and outside of the community who could prove to be an asset for the APLHIV, Uzair was one of those, who always came to be a source of moral support and support in discharge of my duties for me and who supported me day and nights to bring the organization on to the track.

Sooner the APLHIV was recognized as one of the most important stakeholder of the community at national level both within the public and private sectors. I and Uzair had to work day and nights to bring the APLHIV at this level. Today, the APLHIV is successfully implementing two (2) projects of the Global Fund, a major project funded by European organizations in addition to many small scale projects. The APLHIV is providing the toll free helpline services on 24/7 bases. The APLHIV has been expended to provincial levels. The APLHIV is housed in a kind of office that can be compared to any good set ups in the area, the team has increased from 4 members to 18 members. The engagement of the APLHIV at any policy and decision making level is mandatory, may it be the preparation of GARPR, may it be finalization of HIV bill for legislation or may it be selection of an organization for the visits of High level missions. Even the special envoy of UN’s SG visited the APLHIV.  The APLHIV has become a beacon for those who intend to make a struggle for a cause. This is all the team work and I pay my special compliments to all my team members who bared me out, thanks to board members who gave me an open hand and special gratitude to Uzair who stood with me for day and nights to make the progress. But to me this is not the end but the beginning towards the goals. We are committed to make the organization more effective and active across the country.