Olga: HIV activists helped me at a difficult time in my life

Olga was born into and raised in a traditional family, but her father, as she acknowledged, was a domestic tyrant. The young girl grew up among shrieks, insults, and beatings. When she matured, her childhood fears prevented her from forming a healthy life with her husband.
 
“After every conflict my heart stopped from fear although he never raised his hand to me”, Olga recounted. As a result they got divorced. Ensuing relationships were also fraught with this problem: each time a conflict arose, the young woman had the desire to escape. And so she ran away.
 
— …It was probably these fears specifically that pushed me into the arms of the man who eventually infected me with HIV. He hid his status from me. For this I took him to court, but frankly I didn’t feel considerably better because of this. My subjective opinion is that intentionally infecting another person with HIV is an attempt to bind them to you. Before then, of course, I had heard about HIV but I thought that something like that would never happen to me. And I repeatedly asked this man if he had had a radiography screening and if he had had lab tests done and he always answered that everything was fine.
 
I believe that whether you realize it or not, you subject your partner to a risk and you must take responsibility for your social behaviour! I advocate putting individuals who deliberately infect their partners on trial. However the fact that I took this individual to court caused great reverberations and negative reactions in the community of people living with HIV (PLWH).
 
– What was your reaction to the diagnosis?
 
— The reaction was fear, horror, shock, and anticipation of death… Now it’s already had to say exactly how I felt then and I don’t really want to remember because I’ve worked hard in order to overcome all of that and accept my diagnosis. I remember that I was hoping for a miracle, as it often happens with women who have just learned about their HIV positive status. I immediately understood that miracles don’t happen.
 
Intuitively I understood that I needed to see what a HIV positive person looks like, how they live, and what they quality of life is. You often are confronted with the fact that women are afraid to attend self-help groups because of fear of meeting someone they know. I was the opposite – I needed to see a person with a positive HIV status. Several activists helped me to systemize all the information about HIV, to separate the wheat from the chaff, shared their experience of living with HIV, and simply gave a hand in a difficult time in my life. My psychologist, the head of the women’s crisis center in our city, also gave me a great deal of assistance.
 
– Have any misunderstandings or issues arisen between doctors, colleagues, or acquaintances?
 
— As a HIV positive woman, I, by and large, have not come across problems because of my status. I have even gone to a medical establishment where I had an operation done (naturally I informed the doctor of my status), and the relationship with the doctor was very good. I believe that a lot depends on the patients themselves.
 
I work as an individual entrepreneur and therefore I didn’t have to deal with working with an open status. I also teach in a university and there they do not know that I am HIV positive. I’m preparing to tell my daughter, that absolutely safe sex doesn’t exist, and that her mom is HIV+. She’s 10 years old, and a cheerful and communicative child. We enjoy travelling; on the weekend we can hop in the car and head to Moscow to the zoo. We go to the cinema, theater, to exhibitions, and visit art studios together. In general I’m ready to open my face. But I’m afraid that my daughter will be discriminated against since our society is still not completely free from stereotypes relating to HIV positive people.
 
– Under the influence of social stereotypes, people with HIV start to attribute undesirable qualities to themselves. Negative self-worth, feelings of shame and personal insignificance, and self-condemnation seriously hinder HIV treatment…
 
— Self-stigmatization for me is a serious problem. Unfortunately I don’t yet have a concrete scheme to dispose of it; I’m not prepared to give some specific advice because the process of working on this is currently in full swing. However as of now it is ingrained in my head that my future partners will be only HIV positive. Perhaps this impression will change someday.
 
Coping with self-stigmatization is partly assuaged by public work. Besides this it gives me an opportunity for self realization: I’m a person with a very active position in life. Secondly, it allows me to make important and pleasant acquanitances. All of them are activists, which means leaders and interestion discussions, new knowledge, competent opinions… Thirdly, I adhere to the motto “don’t look at for whom it’s better, look for whom it’s worse”. I prefer working with women since they are more vulnerable.
 
– What would you say to women who just recently have learned about their HIV positive status?
 
— I would like to wish them the strength and patience to get through the acceptance of their diagnosis, and to help them understand that their lives are not over but simply have changed, and that they absolutely should go to a specialist and peer counselors. It’s possible that this test was given to me for a reason. Thanks to my HIV status I’ve met wonderful people and learned to get pleasure from each and every day. Plus, if your partner infects you intentionally and you can prove this, don’t be afraid to defend your rights in court.”
 
Source: “РИА Новости”.