Dilya's Story: Living with HIV
I met my boyfriend when I was 17. We became very close, trusted each other and shared our feelings and hopes. He was very kind, loving and sensitive, however, soon I discovered that he was a drug user. My parents were horrified and did not want me to see him again, but I felt we could be happy together. He said that he could not give up drugs, but I was determined to help him.
I tried to convince him, for his sake and for ours. I decided that the only was to show him how it was possible, by showing to him myself. By chance I got to know a customer at the shop I worked in. We became friendly and I confided in him about my boyfriend and my intention to show him how to give up. The customer began to supply me with drugs. At first I hated it, but then I began to find that it cheered me up when I felt sad or depressed about my life and my relationship. But I wanted even more, to show my boyfriend that it is easy to give up.
One day when I was with him, he noticed that there was something different about me. He was very angry and knew that I was using drugs and said that he would tell my parents. I said that I would tell them that he made me use drugs. I told him why I had started to use drugs and that we would give up together. I wanted him to see me give up and know that it was possible.
Shortly afterwards, to my horror, my boyfriend was arrested for selling drugs and sent to prison. In the meantime my parents also suspected something was wrong with me. They made me go to a clinic for blood tests. To my relief, there was nothing wrong. I was ashamed at how I had treated my parents and was determined to stop the drugs. At the clinic I met a psychologist who started me on a programme to stop.
Some time later I heard that he had come to Tashkent to visit a clinic. I also heard that he had started to use drugs again in prison. My mother insisted that I went to the clinic to be tested. This time I was HIV positive.
I was devastated and did not know what to do. There was no one to tell or to ask for help. I wanted to end my life. I asked my mum for money – to buy enough drugs to overdose. But my mum, after all I had put her though, was so kind and supportive. She gave me hope. She found out about an organisation that provided help for HIV infected people. She took me there but I did not want to go in. I was frightened and thought that the people would look ill and like they were going to die.
But when I went in, I was surprised to find that they were normal. People just like me. They were not bad people, just unlucky. They did not know enough, or had made one mistake. I attended the centre for a year, getting support, advice, information.
Then I began to work as a volunteer. Helping people like me, people who are shocked, in despair, wanting to die. I help them to begin to live again, to feel normal, to feel happy, to have hope.
But I also help others to protect themselves, prevent themselves from having to come to a place like this centre. So we go to schools, we talk to young people, finding out what they need to know, telling them about the threat from HIV, how to protect themselves. And it’s so rewarding. They want to unite with us, to work with us, to let everyone know about HIV. So, although we are HIV positive, we’re living our lives. Just like everyone else.
Dilya was interviewed by Anthony Burnett in October 2005