|© UNICEF Uzbekistan/2009/Fatihova|
|HIV-positive children in the Boychechak Day Care Centre in Namangan enjoy playing with colourful toys.|
By Kamila Fatihova and Maksim Fazlitdinov
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, 10 December 2010 - Azim, 12, who is living with HIV, attends the Boychechak Day Care Centre, which provides services for people affected by HIV/AIDS in the eastern Uzbekistan province of Namangan. Since June 2010, over 550 children like Azim, who experience stigma and discrimination because of their HIV status, have found solace in such centres. They have also found a chance to enjoy their childhood once again.
“I learned that I am HIV-positive two years ago,” says Azim. “My mom was very upset but couldn’t explain much. For the last one and a half years I’ve been taking pills every day. This makes me feel better. I have a special calendar with bright pictures that helps me keep track of my medicine routine. My mom and I often come to the Boychechak Day Care Centre, which was opened in our town this year. I draw pictures and play with my friends while my mom talks to other children’s parents or goes shopping.”
Today, four UNICEF-supported day care centres for children and their families operate in Tashkent city (where they opened in 2008), as well as the provinces of Andijan, Namangan and Fergana (launched in 2010) – the areas worst affected by HIV and AIDS in Uzbekistan. In these centres, children and adults whose lives are affected by HIV are given access to psycho-social support, medical and legal counselling, and most important, to an environment free of stigma and discrimination.
|© UNICEF Uzbekistan/2009/Fatihova|
|A piece of artwork made of plasticine by a seven-year-old girl at the Kaldirgoch Day Care Centre for children living with HIV in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.|
“I learned about the Kaldirgoch day care facility for HIV-affected children when I brought my son,” says a parent who is also a social worker at the Kaldirgoch centre in Tashkent. “When we came to the centre, it was the first time I saw moms like me and children like my son. They were playing, talking and having a good time. I received counselling and openly talked about my problems with other parents. This was a great relief for me. I stopped feeling lonely. This experience completely changed my life, and today I am a full-time employee of the centre.”
With limited resources, the centres assist families by providing children with basic learning packed with fun, recreational activities and lots of play. They also help with other needs, including HIV/AIDS awareness programmes, care and treatment for orphaned and vulnerable children and assistance in forming peer support groups for families.
The gift of hope
Another important function the centres perform is to represent social interests of families in health care facilities and social protection bodies. This helps to ensure that HIV-positive children get quality medical services and receive proper entitlements from the state.
The day care facilities in Andijan, Namangan and Fergana are located on the premises of the local AIDS centres, and the one in Tashkent operates out of the National Paediatrics Institute. Each centre is managed by a director and staffed by one or two social workers, a psychologist, a paediatrician and a number of volunteers – usually parents of children living with HIV.
“People who work in the centre told me everything about HIV, and now I am not afraid of it,” says Azim, back at the Boychechak Day Care Centre. “I know that I will grow up and be able to support my mom.” The staff at the centre has given him the most wonderful gift of all – the gift of hope.