Living with HIV: Life goes on!
The story of Saodat* from Uzbekistan
In sharing my story, I want to tell every young woman and man living with HIV that we can live healthy and happy lives like everyone else.
I am a mother of three children – two boys and a girl. Our family lives in Tashkent. I am HIV-positive, as is my elder son. He got this infection from me, as I did not know my status at the time I had him. Looking back, I have no words to describe my state of mind. I constantly blamed myself for my son’s HIV status. Over a period of time, I realized that it wasn’t my fault, as I was not aware of my own status. However, the thought still haunts me.
When I met my first husband, I didn’t know he was HIV-positive. I learnt about this only when he died under unclear circumstances after several months of treatment in the hospital. Even then, nobody told me about his status.
So, when did I get to know? A few weeks after his demise, our test results confirmed that my son and I were HIV-positive. At the time, I had no idea about HIV and AIDS, and I associated it mainly with death. I believed that I would die soon just like my husband. I was scared and confused. I couldn’t understand what I had done wrong to deserve this. I worried about my child and what would happen to him if I were to die.
I am eternally thankful to my parents for their unwavering support. Yet, I felt isolated from the rest of the world. I had lost hope. Fortunately, I met a physician at the Republican AIDS Center. She explained to me that we would not die of HIV or AIDS, if I took care of myself and my child.
We have to understand that 15 years ago, just like in many other countries, Uzbek society too had a negative attitude towards HIV-positive people. And so, I faced many challenges. Each day was a struggle. Because of stigma, it was difficult to get jobs and health services.
But, miracles happen. I met a man who changed my life. He told me about medicines which could help me live a healthy, longer life, and even give birth to a healthy child. It was like a ray of hope to me, and I trusted him fully. Soon, we got married. And then came the long wait of pregnancy and childbirth. This time, I was prepared for it. During my pregnancy, I took antiretroviral drugs and strictly followed the doctors’ advice. It was a cesarean section, with no breast-feeding and taking necessary drugs. Because of these efforts, my daughter is free of HIV. My husband and I are so happy.
The fear I had during my second pregnancy is already a thing of the past. Now, I am blessed with third child, a son. He is 2 years old, and he too is HIV negative. My husband and I did everything to ensure that he also is healthy.
My elder son is a 17 and my daughter is 14 now. I discuss everything with them and explained what had happened. I am happy that they understand me. My eldest son and I continue to take the necessary medicines regularly, but other than that, our life is no different from the lives of others.
Life goes on! People like me should understand that HIV is not a death sentence and certainly not a reason for despair. Given the advances in the world of medicine, today we have the opportunity to fulfill all our potential. My message to everyone is “do what you enjoy doing, love, have children, and live a happy life!”
UNICEF supports the Ministry of Health in Uzbekistan in eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV through strengthening the health system. Partner organizations make collective efforts to ensure that women and children living with HIV have access to comprehensive services.
* The writer’s name has been changed to protect her identity.