Tamara: Hiding Her Status for the Sake of Her Son
An HIV positive mother must hide her status so her son can stay in school... but she has found a place where she feels safe and accepted
In a courtyard in the town of Balti, in Northern Moldova, Tamara and a couple of other young people are discussing what they have learned at a seminar that they have just attended.
Tamara is one of about 5,000 young people that regularly benefit from the services of “Attis,” a youth friendly health centre, opened in 2005 with UNICEF support. Attis offers information about sexually transmitted diseases, HIV /AIDS, counselling and testing services, access to contraceptives and care and support for the most vulnerable adolescents. Located in one of the most HIV/AIDS-affected towns (Balti,) Attis offers services to vulnerable children and young people aged 10-25 years not only from Balti, but also from nearby villages and small towns.
“When I went to the family doctor in the town clinic, they only wanted to get rid of me,” Tamara confessed. “Here, at the clinic, the doctors treat me without applying judgments.” Being HIV positive, Tamara continuously faced discrimination before coming to the centre. She said that, despite a law requiring medical staff to keep the diagnosis confidential, the doctors were writing the code “20” even on prescriptions. This code means that the patient is HIV positive.
Tamara has a son who attends a local kindergarten, and the young mother is aware that if teachers and other parents knew that she is HIV positive, the child would face the same stigma, although he himself is HIV negative. “We try to hide my HIV status, because people do not know a lot about HIV and they do not understand there is nothing to be afraid of,” Tamara explains.
In Moldova, people living with HIV, as well as their families, face discrimination. They are often unable to get a job, their children may not be accepted in preschools, and these circumstances force them to hide their status. Many of the youth and adolescents at risk avoid seeking health care because they fear how they will be treated. This has consequences for their health and affects their lives in other ways.
Asked what she would feel if the centre closed down one day, Tamara says it would be a real shock for her. “I cannot even imagine what I would do. If “Attis” clinic did not exist, I would have to travel to the specialized HIV centre in Chisinau each time I had a health problem” Tamara adds. “It would cost me a lot, as I need medical examinations for myself and my child every 3 months or so, and here I don’t have to pay for anything, all the services are free.”
Tamara comes to the centre every day, for medical examinations, and also to attend seminars and to socialize with other beneficiaries and the staff. At the clinic Tamara feels safe and accepted and feels she does not have to hide anything.
written by Angela Munteanu, UNICEF Moldova