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Ukrainian experience in improving the health of HIV-positive women

Activist from Kiev Vera Varyga about the project «Using the approach of direct intervention to improve the health of HIV-positive women»

An activist from Kiev, Vera Varyga, talks about the project “Using the direct intervention approach to improving the health of HIV-positive women”, which is being implemented in the capital of Ukraine.

Currently, the project “Using a direct intervention approach to improve the health of HIV-positive women” is being implemented in Kiev. Project activities include a mutual aid group and a closed online group in social networks for HIV-positive women, master classes, trainings and training courses, joint leisure and recreation, and humanitarian aid.

The project was initiated by Vera Varyga, an activist, a member of the All-Ukrainian Network of PLWHA, living with HIV since 2002. The decision to develop a separate line of work with HIV-positive women in the organization was made to her after she herself faced with violations of her rights and refusal of medical services during her first pregnancy. (Vera now has two healthy sons.)

The history of the project is as follows. In 2014, one of the founders of the BoW “Positive Women of the World” (PWW), Silvia de Rugama Prado, came to Kiev. Thanks to the partnership with the ICF “AIDS Foundation East – West” (AFEW-Ukraine), she “came out” to the Kiev branch of the All-Ukrainian Network of PLWHA and met with Vera. Vera organized a meeting of HIV-positive women in Kiev with Sylvia. The event was held in a focus group format. The women talked to Sylvia, and she personally recognized their needs. The result of this meeting was a pilot project to help HIV-positive women. Sylvia found the means to implement his plans. Funding is provided by the well-known Dutch pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences Europe Ltd as part of the goSHAPE grant program.

“The most important thing for me in this project is a democratic approach. All our plans are negotiated with the participants. Today, their 56 women aged 27 years. 33 of them are members of the Kiyanka + closed online group. Online voting is held on various topics: for example, what kind of training courses will be held, and where will girls gather. Then the social worker calls all those who do not access the Internet, and only after that the final decision is made. This encourages clients to be responsible and inspires new initiatives, ”says Vera. – Women participate in a social theater, in various actions, collect help for HIV-positive children … One of the project participants on a voluntary basis conducted for 10 women a basic course of manicure and pedicure. Seven women learned English, five became florists, five became manicure masters, five became office managers. Four women are already employed. ”

In addition, Vera asked one of the project participants to share her personal story. We offer it to your attention:

“Hello everyone, my name is Irina, I am 35 years old, I live in Kiev. I have no parents, I am an orphan, I have only a son and a sister. My son is now 11 years old, he does not live with me, since three years ago I was deprived of maternal rights. I could not bring up my child myself, because I had problems with alcohol. I started drinking heavily after my husband committed suicide. Because of this, the social service took my boy from me. He now lives in a family-type orphanage.

In December 2014, I went to the hospital with pneumonia and, after having been treated for two months, I learned that I had HIV … This diagnosis literally “trampled” me as a person, I no longer saw the meaning of life and thought about suicide.

In February 2015, near the women’s consultation office, I was given a business card and invited to a mutual aid group for HIV-positive women. At that time I didn’t work anywhere, and I had no money even to get to the group, but I still decided to go there.

On the group, I received a new impetus to life. Other HIV-positive women inspired me, I saw with my own eyes that people live with HIV, not die.

Thanks to participation in this project, I studied as a florist and received a state diploma. The social worker helped me compile a resume and posted this information on the job search site. Vera found me a temporary job as a nanny. My salary today is 5,000 hryvnia (15,000 rubles).

The family, in which my son is being raised, finally saw me sober and allows me to see my son. I visit him once a week and prepare the necessary documents for the restoration of maternal rights.

I quit drinking and believe that I will soon be able, with my own example, to inspire women who have been diagnosed with HIV and addicted to depression.

Thanks to everyone who took part in my recovery! ”

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