A young woman named Anastasia talks of what helps her to live with HIV. “Diagnosis of HIV is not a sentence, not a terrible word. Everything is in your hands only, and each one of you can change this world a little for the better,” – she says.
How did you learn about their HIV-positive status? What was your first reaction? How did your relatives/friends react?
I was told of my positive HIV status in the hospital. I had several operations, and was given a HIV test. Before being discharged, the doctor called me and said that I was diagnosed with HIV infection. I was shocked. By that time I was living for three years with my common-law husband. I knew what this disease is, but I also believed that it could not affect me. I do not use drugs, I live with one man. For me it was a 100% guarantee. But it turned out to be not enough protection.
Do you face stigma because of your status from the part of physicians, friends or others?
At first I decided that I will not tell anyone. That it is a shameful disease that should be hidden. Later I studied the information, went to the support group and understood that I can tell my loved ones about my diagnosis. The first one to know about it was my mother. She was very scared and sad. But I told her more information about this disease, and now she no longer sees it as deadly.
Besides, I told my close friends about the diagnosis, and they, in turn, shared this information with their husbands. One of them, a woman with medical education, accepted the information steadfastly, but another’s husband called me and said that we shall no longer communicate. Basically, this is the only negative experience in my life associated with the diagnosis. Later on I was telling my friends; they were telling their friends and acquaintances. And no one condemned me. On the contrary, people were approaching me, asking about my health and HIV, how it is to live with it, what one can do in such situation. By that time I could already speak about it, I knew a lot of information. And I conducted a kind of prevention among my friends.
What helped you to accept the diagnosis at the beginning?
I got a lot of help from support group and from communication with my peer counselor. Once I was registered in the AIDS Center, I immediately called the peer counselor, and she invited me to the group. I had a lot of fears, but the cozy and relaxed atmosphere helped me overcome them. I studied the information, took brochures at group meetings and in the center, was searching through the Internet – and at some point I realized that I could give information too. So I began to lead the group myself and became a volunteer for primary prevention among youth. It really helps me accept the diagnosis, and understand all its nuances. Speaking about it, you learn to accept yourself with such a diagnosis.
What can you wish to the readers of this material?
First and foremost, I wish all male and female readers to love themselves. HIV diagnosis is not a sentence, not a terrible word. Is a disease, with which can and should learn to live. It is not an obstacle for education, work or relationships. Everything is in your hands only, and each one of you can change this world a little for the better.
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Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on the E.V.A (Equity. Verity. Activity) website. E.V.A is a network which aims to improve the quality of life for women and families affected by HIV, drug use, TB, and hepatitis in Russia
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