In the words of Daria*: “People with HIV face stigma and discrimination because society is poorly informed about this disease”.
Daria* is an activist from Kostanay (Kazakhstan) advocating for the rights of those living with HIV. She is an economist and analyst, and now she mentors people living with HIV on their rights and tackles stigma around the issue. Daria recently completed the Leadership School for women living with HIV in Burabay, and enhanced her awareness on gender equality, human rights, and countering systemic forms of gender-based violence and discrimination.
“What prompted me to become an activist was the situation that I went to Russia and took an HIV test there, which was positive, and after that, they refused my entry there. I did IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) in Chelyabinsk. The first time was not successful, and there was biomaterial left for repeated IVF. I couldn't cross the border because of my status. Since I was denied entry, I hired lawyers, but my issue was not resolved. Because of discrimination, I started to think that this was not right and started to learn more about activism.
I have been taking antiretroviral therapy for five years, and I don’t have any health issues. I met my husband and gave birth to a healthy child naturally, proving that women with HIV can start a family and have children. It is necessary to inform people and show them examples of those who live a full life with this status. People with HIV face stigma and discrimination because society is poorly informed about this disease.
Honestly, I was really preparing for death when I first found out about my positive status. I was paying off my debts and finishing my business. A year passed, but I was still alive. Then I understood the basic information that HIV is a chronic disease you can live with it by taking therapy and reducing your viral load. If you do not take medications, this can lead to negative consequences. That is why we need to raise awareness about it.
The mentoring program plays an important role for women with HIV, as it allows us to share experiences and provide moral support to each other. This is especially important for people facing challenges, discrimination, or stigma due to their HIV status. The mentoring program can provide emotional support to newly diagnosed HIV-positive people, helping them accept their situation and find the strength to continue living a full life”.
The Leadership School is organized by UN Women with the support of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Answer Foundation. It aims to enhance the knowledge of women activists living with HIV on feminism, intersectionality, leadership and team building, and enhance their skills in assessing the needs of vulnerable groups, team building and developing partnerships. As a result of the training, the community of the group was strengthened, as well as the value basis for further cooperation. After completing the training, 24 participants will continue to support communities as mentors in their regions, applying the skills and knowledge gained.
*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality