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Ukraine: HIV-positive youth counsellor says children need AIDS information from real people

© UNICEF video
Irina meets with youth from the Aspern shelter, which is run by a UNICEF partner. The shelter seeks to raise awareness among street children about the dangers of HIV/AIDS.

By Irina Kalinichenko

Irina, 21, has been living with HIV for three years. She is currently working as a deputy director of an non-governmental organization providing services for people affected by HIV/AIDS in Ukraine. She works on communications with city and regional institutions to expand the list of services offered to people with HIV/AIDS, and is currently  working to organize a day care centre for children with HIV. This is her story:

CHERKASSY, Ukraine, 3 November 2005 – “HIV completely changed my life. The life of an HIV-positive person is extremely difficult in my country. And children are the most affected.

“Often we face stigma and intolerance from society, and a lot of children don’t attend school. It’s very difficult to get a job if you are HIV-positive. That’s why families of HIV-positive people are facing a lack of money.

“Several years ago I, like the majority of my peers, thought that HIV was not related to me. We saw it as a problem for other countries. But now more than 10,000 children were born to HIV positive women [in Ukraine].

© UNICEF video
Irina often visits classes like this one to teach students about HIV/AIDS prevention.

“I’m working for the HIV service organization, ‘All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS.’ Our organization established a day care centre for families affected by HIV/AIDS. In our community we established self-support groups; we provide care and support for HIV-positive children, counselling, and advocacy for HIV-positive children’s rights.

“I spend a lot of time talking with school children, telling them about HIV/AIDS, and the ways which they can get HIV. My experience shows when children obtain information not from the media, but from real people, the message becomes powerful.

“World leaders should understand that HIV can knock at everyone’s door, and therefore we should act together.”




October 2005:
Irina Kalinichenko talks about how she’s using her own experiences as an HIV-positive person to reach out to her peers about the dangers of HIV/AIDS.

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21-year-old young woman in Ukraine living with HIV tells her story.

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