Nadezhda, 28 y.o., Transnistria: “I tell other women that if they are HIV-positive they can give birth to healthy children”

As a kid, I was a typical nerd girl from a good family; my grades at school were almost immaculate – only one “B” among all “A”s. But then things changed for the worse…

I have always dreamed of becoming a doctor. But in my junior year of high school, I decided that I was HIV-infected, and that this diagnosis would prevent me from pursuing a career in medicine. I was seeing a HIV-positive guy at the time; medical advice was unavailable, and I just decided that I had HIV myself. Thereby, I began my studies as an accountant, but eventually left because I did not like it.

My potential HIV status haunted me. I talked to an NGO representative who educated me on the topic, and I had a HIV test; it came negative. Later on, when I started working at the same NGO, I lectured schoolchildren on HIV prevention. I believe it is very important to inform kids, so that their ignorance would not keep them from pursuing their dreams, as happened to me.

A couple more years later, while I was still in relationship with the same person, my regular HIV test came positive. I discovered that he had given up on his treatment. You cannot imagine how I cried. We broke up after that.

My mother knows about my HIV status. She supports me, reminds me of taking pills or going for a blood test. My family and even some of my friends know as well. The only instances of judgement and incompetence I encountered happened among the medical personnel.

My husband is also HIV-positive. We met online; he is also from Moldova, but was working in Moscow, so I moved there. We were planning to have children, as I knew that HIV-positive women can give birth to healthy kids. During my first pregnancy I was regularly examined in a private clinic in Moscow. However, in the post-partum period a child of an HIV-positive mother should receive a medication in liquid form for prophylactics. This medication can only be obtained at an AIDS center, and foreigners are not authorized to receive help in such centers in Russia. So, we had to return to Moldova. In my country, HIV-negative kids of HIV-positive parents are removed from HIV registers at the age of one month and a half. Now my daughter is three years old, my son is almost two, so they are free from observation.

I don’t understand the reason for such cruelty in the Russian laws regarding HIV-positive people. We are not spending Russian money, there is no problem bringing the medications from Moldova. I paid for all the blood tests I ever did. I don’t need anything from Russia, just an opportunity to live there. I am a human being, the world lays open before me. Currently, I can travel to any European country, except for Russia.

But we are not giving up. My husband works in Europe, I take care of our children, work in a store, and study social counseling. But most importantly, I volunteer as a counselor for women living with HIV. All of three years of my maternity leave I maintained contacts with women who discovered their HIV status during pregnancy. Believe me, they have lots of questions. I am happy to be able to explain that they can give birth to healthy children; they just need to follow two important guidelines: take the treatment regularly and abstain from breastfeeding.

Written by Ekaterina Ivashchenko

Pictures by Aleksandr Nosov

To read the story in Russian, please follow http://migrationhealth.group/nadezhda-pridnestrovye/