When I found out about my status, I was angry with the whole world. I hated everybody. This has changed. I am living with HIV, but I discovered that others have even worse troubles. And they don’t lose hope, but keep on living with their problems and try to solve them. In Tajikistan, sex workers living with HIV face many challenges, even more so when they come from remote areas and don’t have a passport or any official residential registration. For people without documents it is difficult to receive HIV treatment. The members of the Shah-Ajym network try to get them the necessary papers or send them back to their regions to receive ART there. Moreover, people with HIV sometimes don’t have a place to live and experience malnutrition, which are bad conditions for proper HIV treatment.

Another obstacle is that the clinics are hard to reach. You have to walk very far from the public transport stop to the clinic. Knowing the distance and fearing to collapse on the road, people with HIV often prefer to stay at home and carry out self-treatment. Recently, I felt bad myself, because I experienced nausea, fatigue, aggression, and menstrual disorder. I wanted a CD4 count test, but in Dushanbe the machine was out of order. Because I was offered an opportunity to go to another city to participate in a training, by chance – and thanks to good people – I got a test there. Back in my city, I underwent other medical examinations, but my blood test was lost. My condition worsened so much that I couldn’t work anymore and I was taken to the hospital, to the department for people with HIV.

We compiled an adherence calendar for a girl who takes eighteen pills a day

Adherence to medication is essential. I know a girl living with HIV who takes eight pills every 24 hours. Because she also has tuberculosis, she needs to swallow ten extra pills, so she takes a total of eighteen pills a day. Together with my colleagues of the organisation Dignity, I supported her to get used to taking the medicines. We compiled an adherence calendar, woke her up in the morning to have breakfast and take her pills, and we reminded her in the evening about the pills. We told her that we are one family and that she is part of it, and that we wanted her to be healthy. We let her know that we loved her and needed her. She felt our care. It is so little that human beings need just to know that they are loved.

My experience is that conversations about HIV always evoke negative and sad emotions. I have hardly ever heard of a positive side of it. However, people say I have converted my situation into work. And I thank God that I have HIV. You might think I am out of my mind. No way! It is because of HIV that I understand what I have to do in life and who truly believes in me.

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