Sellappan Nirmala

Sellappan Nirmala, The Woman Who Discovered India’s first HIV Case

Lethal disease HIV was discovered in India almost 30 years ago. The news came to light when blood samples of six sex workers were found infected with HIV Virus. The world has not been the same since discovery of HIV in India.

The country surely has been under-shock since HIV virus was found in Indians but had it not been found 30 years ago, many would have got infected and the conditions would have been really worse. The efforts of ONE SINGLE WOMAN changed the face of HIV infected in India.

About Sellappan Nirmala

Sellappan Nirmala was 32 years old and was a microbiology student in Chennai at a medical college when she discovered presence of HIV Virus in Indians. This was almost 30 years ago in 1985; the early discovery leveraged the government with enough time to develop a paradigm and minimize the spread of this Virus.

HIV has found a decent growth in India but the results would have catastrophic had Sellappan Nirmala not discovered its presence in the earlier days. Suniti Solomon, the teacher and mentor of Sellappan Nirmala inspired her to take up the course of HIV discovery in India. It was in 1982 when United States of America has started testing people for HIV Virus infection; the movement was designed to found infected personnel and restrict the further growth in number of infected people.

As published in BBC, The movement acquired a momentum in USA but in India, it was still a Taboo. Sellappan Nirmala had to work really hard, day and night to mark the presence of HIV Virus in India.

Media was quite adamant about committing to the idea that India has a potential threat from HIV Virus. Newspaper slammed Western Countries to be infected with HIV Virus because of open society, loads of free sex and homosexuality whereas they portrayed India as a cultural and God Fearing Country.

Had Nirmala not worked and found out the presence of HIV Virus in India, the media people would have covered the growth of HIV virus in India quiet eloquently.

Read : Devika Sirohi Youngest in the team decoded Zika Virus

How HIV Virus in India was discovered by Sellappan Nirmala?

Later when Virus was discovered in India, newspaper tried to cover their incompetency by reporting that America has already discovered cure for HIV AIDS. Today, 30 years later, the world is yet to discover cure for AIDS.

Dr. Solomon pushed Nirmala to go ahead and collect samples of sex workers. Nirmala had to choose a city that offered her some substantial ground for research, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai had irregular distribution of sex workers. Later, Sellappan Nirmala decided to collect blood samples of African Students, Homosexual and highly risked sex workers.

Out of the 200 samples collected six sex workers were tested positive and it is from where the whole movement started. Nirmala’s husband Veerapan encouraged at all instances of life and gave her the requisite courage to take her mission forward. He stood firm by her side when she decided to visit arrested sex workers in remand house.

Nirmala never disclosed the reason of collecting blood samples to sex workers because they would to be too terrified afterwards. Nirmala has not only discovered presence of HIV Virus in India but has also made government and other NGOs serious about distribution of protection in red light areas.

Government since then has been working aggressively on campaigns to make people aware about the HIV Virus and methods of transmission.

image credit : bbc

Scroll to Top