My name is Inna, I am 30 years old and I live in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. I am a leader at the organisation Dignity and a member of the sex workers network Shah-Ajym. In the evenings, I sometimes work as a sex worker. It is difficult for me to be in a community where people are not sex workers. Many people disapprove of me. Some sympathise with me, but ask stupid questions, and then I desperately want to run away. But even within my own community, sometimes I am confronted with discrimination – because I am living with HIV. Some girls inform my clients about my status, and then I earn less.

In Tajikistan life is quite challenging for sex workers, particularly for those living with HIV. I get HIV treatment and feel healthy. But many do not have of a passport or any official registration and, therefore, have no access to treatment. And some do not have a good place to stay and experience malnutrition, while you need good food when on ART (antiretroviral therapy). Another challenge is the administrative prosecution. We are often forced to pay money to the militia, and if we refuse, we have to sit in their premises for hours. They humiliate and beat us, constantly saying that we are prostitutes and nobody will help us.

In the drop-in center, we feel open and free, and we can learn from each other

 I am very happy with my job at Dignity, because I want to support people like myself. This work really gives me the feeling that I am needed. Sex workers, women and men, and LGBT people are welcome in Dignity’s drop-in centre. We offer temporary, safe accommodation, hot food, and a shower. And it is a place to share troubles and find solutions together. We also talk about our rights. Here, we feel open and free, and we can learn from each other. Another service is pre-test counselling, but we never force anybody to have an HIV test. One time we escorted a girl to the doctor. She had HIV and tuberculosis and experienced itching in the area of the genital organs, a side-effect of the medicines. She was afraid to tell the doctor, because he was a man, and just stopped using the prescribed drugs. After several heated discussions, we convinced her to go to the doctor, who was already informed by one of our workers about the side-effects. Now she feels okay and works again.

When my parents found out I had HIV, they simply threw me out on the street. I am not angry with them. They did not have enough information about it; actually, they even did not want to know anything about HIV. In my country, a person living with HIV is ‘harom’, which means condemned and filthy. However, because I am living with HIV, I better understand the value of life and know who my real friends are. And I even got a job at Dignity. I converted my status into something positive.

3 replies
  1. Karen
    Karen says:

    Dear Inna,
    Thank you for sharing your story, I worked the industry for many years, then worked for the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, currently working for Sexual Health. I am very passionate about HIV, do look at my website this is a trust that I started in 2002. I have spent 25 yrs supporting people living with HIV, and some of my best friends are positive. Keep strong wonderful lady, your work is very important. Much love to you xx

  2. Lương vă Lợi
    Lương vă Lợi says:

    Bạn thật cam đảm và mạnh mẽ. (Sự can đảm và mạnh mẽ sẽ chiến thắng được bệnh tật và nó sẽ át đi được sự kỳ thi), đây là những thông điệp mà nhưng người sống chung với HIV như chung ta cần phải có. Tôi cũng vậy cách đây 6 năm biết mình nhiễm HIV và bệnh Lao, tôi đã không ngần ngại công khai tình trạng nhiễm HIV và bệnh Lao, khi ma bản thân tôi đang sống ở một tỉnh miền núi là một trong những tỉnh nghèo nhất Việt Nam (Điện Biên Phủ) , sự thiếu thống tin và hiểu biết kiến thức về HIV còn bao chùm nên rất nhiều người do vậy sự kỳ thị là rất lớn trong cộng đồng, Bạn biết không ? Chính sự mạnh dặn công khai tình trạng nhiễm HIV đã mang lại sự tự tin trong tôi, làm giảm đáng kể sự kỳ thi của moi người sống quanh mình và đem lại cuộc sống cho rất nhiều người cùng cảnh ngộ như tôi và bạn.
    Tôi mong sao từ sự công khai cua bạn và những tính cực của bạn trong công việc sẽ làm thay đổi cách nhìn nhận của nhiều người về HIV và công việc của ban. Tôi chúc bạn luông khỏe mạnh và luôn trẻ đẹp ! Hẹn gặp bạn ở những trang tâm sự sau.


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