Sardor, 24 y.o., Kyrgyzstan: “Please don’t be afraid of me! HIV is not so easily transmitted”

I’m 24 years old, and I have been earning a living in Russia for 9 years already.

I was born in southern Kyrgyzstan in a traditional family: my mother was taking care of three kids, and my father was a driver. They constantly quarreled, my dad was beating my mom, and later he left her for another woman. To survive and make ends meet, my mother went to Russia for work. I stayed with my grandmother until her death.

I moved to live with my father and stepmother. Living there was unbearable, and I moved to my mother, without even having finished 8th grade. A shuttle bus driver who moved migrants to Russia had a power of attorney for transporting me; I still remember three days of driving through Kazakh steppe. I was dreaming of receiving good education and becoming a surgeon, but at the time of my arrival I did not know a single word in Russian.

My mother did cleaning jobs in a village near Novosibirsk. She got married there, but I did not get along with my stepfather from the very start. Once I saw him with another woman. I was only 15 but understood everything. My mother, however, did not believe me.

I worked at a brick factory. It was very hard work – I had to get up at 4 a.m., put water and cement into a cement-mixer, mix them. But I was paid 1200 rubles per day, very good money. How did I spend my first salary? – Actually, it was not a salary, it was an advanced payment, 5000 rubles – I sent them to my grandfather asking him to make a dua (supplication)*.

On the edge of my 16th birthday, I returned to my homeland to receive a passport. I wanted to stay there longer and study to become a hairdresser, to finally be able to leave hard labor. But my mother did not support my decision, and after obtaining documents I returned to Russia, this time with my brother. We moved to a town where I worked as a bus conductor. My income depended on the number of tickets sold: if you sell 700 tickets, you get 1500 rubles. For myself, I bought only clothes and once a mobile phone; all the rest I gave to my mother. At the time we were already renting a flat.

Three years ago, I came to Moscow. I did all kinds of jobs, from sweeping the streets to cooking. Currently, I have two jobs: the mornings I work in a canteen, and then, from afternoon till late night, in delivery. As it should be, Saturday and Sunday are my days off, when I just take walks around Moscow or meet my friends in a chaikhana to eat our traditional cuisine.

I have found out my HIV status this year. In winter I had fallen sick and had my blood tested. I was told there was a suspicion of possible HIV-infection, and I knew – those were not just suspicions; I knew it was true. After that, I had two more tests, and they came positive. No, I was not afraid. I know that HIV is not fatal, I have seen a movie and a TV program about it. On the First TV channel, there is a program called “Men’s/Women’s”, and one issue was dedicated to HIV-positivity. People should not be afraid of us; HIV is not transmitted easily.

Nevertheless, I will not disclose it to my parents. This is my personal matter. They took away my childhood, and now I’m in charge of my own life.

Kyrgyzstan citizens don’t need a work permit in Russia, so testing for HIV is not obligatory. But nonetheless I recommend doing a test just to be sure, and to avoid unprotected sex.

My dream? I dream of my own house. I don’t have anything in my home country. My mother spends all her money herself, but my brother and I have almost finished saving up to buy land, so we’ll start the construction soon.

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*Dua — a supplication to Allah which is used in many everyday situations. Usually, Muslims ask Allah for help when starting any new task.

Written by Ekaterina Ivashchenko

Pictures by Aleksandr Nosov

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