Alexey, 40 y.o., Belarus: “The main issue is within your own mind: whether or not to accept your HIV status”

I come from Minsk. My dream was to work at railways, but my school was affiliated with a college of education, so I had a bigger chance of getting accepted there. I also wanted to become a radio DJ, and even went to audition to a few radio stations in Minsk, but my taciturnity stood in the way.

I received a degree in teaching history and theology. For a period of time, I was teaching children from fourth till eleventh grade, but it didn’t last long: I once got a chance to attend the meeting of Juvenile Liaison Office. It was then when I lost motivation for any humanitarian endeavor. Two years later I went to work in the field of communications.

How did I end up in Moscow? People from Minsk and Moscow have different mindsets. Belarusians are more infantile and calmer; it was difficult for me to establish romantic relationships in Minsk. I came to Moscow just for fun a couple of times and I liked it there. I moved to Moscow in 2009. First, I found a place to live, then, a few months later, a job, and later a partner. Hereby, I stayed in Moscow. My area of expertise (communications and IT) is highly demanded here.

I was already aware of my HIV status in Minsk. There is a “Vstrecha” there, a youth organization that supports HIV prevention among LGBT people. They give away tokens for free HIV testing, so I regularly had my blood tested there. Educational college students receive some basic medical training, so I knew what HIV was. But still it took me quite some time to come to terms with my status. Half a year after registering, I was prescribed treatment, and my health was taken under proper control.

In Belarus, an HIV-infected individual signs a document confirming that they are aware of being a carrier of HIV and will be held legally accountable for its spreading. Such individual must use condoms with any contacts and is responsible for their sexual partners. There were cases when people were tried according to this legislation.

When I moved to Moscow, I did not really consider getting a Russian citizenship, as the future of my relationship was unclear. Now I can surely state that we have a stable relationship. But it is no longer possible for me to get a Russian passport.

Regarding my therapy, I used to travel to Minsk to receive it once every three-four months. The problems started this year, when the travel restrictions came into place. Regular and continuous therapy is the most crucial aspect in treatment of HIV, so I had no other choice than buying the medications myself. It costs about 1500 rubles per month. The price is quite affordable. Moreover, I don’t even have to bother my doctor.

What do I think about Russian laws regarding the HIV-infected? On the one hand, if the therapy is accessible, as in my case, the deportation law could have been cancelled. On the other hand, a person who receives treatment requires regular examinations. I know that medications and doctor’s appointments cost the state a lot of money, so I understand why they do not want to spend it on foreigners.

I don’t see any significant complications in the lives of those infected with HIV. The main issue is in the mind: whether or not to accept one’s own HIV status. When a person receives their diagnosis for the first time, it can cause a great psychological trauma. And many people will suffer their entire life. This will also be hurtful for our parents. So, I believe it is better to keep it a secret for as long as possible. If you confide in someone, let it be your closest friends. Although who knows, they may be your friends today, but tomorrow a media war may strike and bring drastic changes. The main question at hand here would not necessarily be one’s physical, but rather mental state, and the way this issue is handled by the society.

Written by Ekaterina Ivashchenko

Pictures by Aleksandr Nosov

To read the story in Russian, please follow: http://migrationhealth.group/aleksej-belarus-40-let-glavnaya-problema-v-golove-prinyatie-ili-neprinyatie-svoego-vich-statusa/