World AIDS Day
I am Generation Equality: Azimabonu Jumabekova, young HIV activist
Date: Tuesday, December 1, 2020
I am Generation Equality because…
I know how it feels to live with HIV so I want to empower other adolescent girls and boys living with this disease to cope with their experiences, stigma, and fears.
I have been raising awareness about people living with HIV, the social stigma and need for change in public perceptions, which remain to be key barriers for HIV prevention and response efforts.
In my early childhood, I was infected with HIV through a blood transfusion at a hospital. When I learnt about my disease, I was devastated. I was afraid to share my status with other students, my friends and community because of pervasive stigma and discrimination against people like me. I used to cover my face and I did not want to take medicine, go to school, or talk to anyone. In Uzbekistan there are widespread stereotypes that only people having a bad lifestyle can be infected with HIV. People are extremely scared of this disease and lack knowledge about it. I was often told that if I had been a good girl, I would not have gotten infected with HIV.
Three actions you can take to be part of Generation Equality:
- Hear the voices of HIV positive girls and women
- Act in solidarity with people living with HIV
- Unite for equality and social justice
At age 10, I started receiving psychosocial support services and learnt more about HIV treatment. I got acquainted with other girls living with HIV and realized that I am not alone. There are many adult women and men, girls and boys who are afraid to accept their status and experience social stigma, anxiety, and discrimination.
Despite my fears, I felt I could not stand behind and stay passive. Once I realized that I could make a difference and have a role to play, I decided to act upon it by sharing my own story. My activism started with a social experiment supported by UNICEF, where I stood behind a poster 'I am HIV positive. Hug me'. This was the first time I shared my status in public. Through this experiment I wanted to challenge public attitudes and beliefs towards people living with HIV and instill a sense of hope and inspiration for many other girls and boys and their parents to speak up and take action in preventing and responding to HIV.
I believe we can see changes once each of us learn more about HIV, hear voices of people living with it and act in solidarity with them.
Since then I became a peer educator for other adolescents living with HIV. Currently, together with a group of over 50 HIV positive teenage girls and boys, we organize events raising awareness about HIV/AIDS to spread the word about HIV-related stigma and contribute to the elimination of discrimination against people living with this illness. In Uzbekistan, many parents do not tell their children about their HIV status. However, I see that through our activism, we managed to encourage many parents to disclose the HIV status of their children and started taking essential antiretroviral therapy.
Through learning more about HIV and its treatment and being a champion for other HIV positive adolescents, I became more confident and empowered. I have a dream to get a university degree, become a diplomat, and be an agent of positive change for girls and boys in Uzbekistan.
Azimabonu Jumabekova is a 19-year-old peer educator and HIV activist from Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Azimabonu was the first teenager in Uzbekistan and the Central Asia region to openly disclose her HIV status.