“… I enjoy the work of peer counselor for the opportunity to give people information and hope, for the possibility to share from my own experience, that HIV isn’t the end, and that if you take care of your health, if you take ARV treatment and lead a more or less normal way of life, that a lot can be achieved, and you can live a full life and not die from HIV, but together with HIV of old age…”
“It began with fear and powerlessness. Of course it’s more pleasant to say how much I like to help people and about the deeper meaning of supporting infected people in a society that is far from tolerant, but the truth is that I myself am the person who needs this help. Helping a drowning person is the handiwork of a drowning person, which describes what I do. It is what, at the beginning of my time as an HIV positive individual, led me to organize a peer support group “Candle”, since going on the same road, is truly a better way to understand one another. Then, alongside me was a peer counselor, a friend – Katya Z. And this was my first peer, whose assistance was invaluable and thanks to her I was able to get through this challenging time. I do the same: I give and receive in exchange experience, information, and the strength to carry on, mainly because this gives hope.”
“I was very scared when I learned about my diagnosis and I didn’t have anyone to tell me more about HIV… I thought that I was alone… like lepers were in the last century and I felt the same. I was scared to ask questions and I simply did what the doctors told me. I came across the project by chance and when I understood that help can be much simpler, I sensed that I liked it. I felt much better if there was someone with whom I could speak, to whom I could ask questions and learn from. I am learning. I continue to learn. And what I know, I share. I think that this is important both to me and to others.”
“Sincerity is a tool which opens horizons in our work. I, like many others, learned to live again: sober and with a positive status. What helped first of all was that those who surround me didn’t change their relationship towards me and I didn’t feel like a leper or outcast. In my work with clients, I try first and foremost to be the kind of person who cares, and this is really the case”.
“At first the diagnosis introduced feelings of unfairness and hurt into my life. For me, the situation seemed unsuitable and the only solution to changing the circumstances was through action. I started to solve my problems and it’s likely that the successful results gave me the strength to share this experience. Now I am a peer counselor… and this position is comfortable for me”.
“I overcame the difficulties connected with my diagnosis myself, without anyone’s help. This was not easy, and I wanted to help people in difficult times. “One head is good, but two – even better”. Together you can always find a way out of any situation”.
“When I learned about my status, the doctor told me that I shouldn’t be worried about living with this, but I didn’t hear her, and I thought about the fact that for her it’s easy to say, she doesn’t really know what it’s like and is healthy. At that moment life lost its meaning for me, there was no information, but if there was a peer counselor nearby at that moment, who could share their experience, I think that I would have gotten through the depression faster. Today I can confidently say that there are people who we have helped and who still need us!”.
“To be honest, my memory of coming to terms with my HIV status is fuzzy. Then the AIDS Center, endless hospitals… It was very difficult but I can say for certain that there was no one close by who could understand me… And the doctors clearly said nothing. Thank God that we live in the modern world and now all information is accessible. I represent those people who were detected at the very beginning of the epidemic. There was neither information nor treatment. The only thing left to do was to pray and count your remaining days… And one wonderful day, completely by chance, I became acquainted with our marvelous E.V.A.. To be exact, with the young women activists who told me about how they live and what they do. In that moment I wanted to learn more and to take part in that work. Following their example, I am now also an activist and peer counselor! I simply live with my HIV status, since without this status I would be a different person. Thank you, ladies, for being there and for being with me!”.
At the moment the project “EVA Caring”, is being developed in Saint-Petersburg. The purpose of the project is to provide HIV positive women with access to quality services of peer counselors in the neighborhoods where they live.
Midterm Conclusions of the Project (June 2014):
– 523 HIV positive women as well as their family members received peer counselling services
– Interactions with treatment establishments were organized: the C.P. Botkina hospital, the infectious disease offices in regional clinics (Kalininsky, Moskovsky, Vasileostrovsky, Krasnogvardeisky, Kolpinski), the municipal narcological hospital, regional gynecologist offices, and additionally branches for women released from incarceration.
– Creation of algorithms of assisting HIV positive women in need of special attention (single mothers with several children, low-income women, women with substance abuse issues).