"My husband used to work in India, and when he came back, he got ill and died," says Durga Thame. "We didn’t know that he was HIV-positive, but then then later my daughter got sick with typhoid and went to hospital and was diagnosed with HIV and died, and then I was tested and was found positive."
Her story is tragic, but one all too familiar for the women living in this region. Men often travel to India in search of work, where they contract HIV and upon their return infect their wives. For Durga, the death of her husband and daughter and her own HIV positive diagnosis threw her into despair.
"My neighbours used to discriminate against me … and I suffered violence at the hands of my community. Everybody used to say that they couldn’t eat whatever I cooked because they might get HIV."
Then Durga heard about HIV education classes run by the Palpa branch of the Family Planning Association of Nepal (FPAN), a short bus journey up the road in Tansen, the capital of Palpa.
"At those meetings, I got information about HIV," she says. "When I came back to my village, I began telling my neighbours about HIV. They came to know the facts and they realised it was a myth that HIV could be transferred by sharing food. Then they began treating me well."
FPAN ran nutrition, hygiene, sanitation and livelihood classes that helped Durga turn the fortunes of her small homestead around. Durga sells goats and hens, and with these earnings supports her family – her father-in-law and her surviving daughter, who she says has not yet been tested for HIV.
"I want to educate my daughter," she says. "I really hope I can provide a better education for her."