An article on HIV/AIDS for The Magazine of the International Red Cross

Are we all losing focus on HIV/AIDS?

Financial crisis and growing poverty could reverse decades of HIV/AIDS progress

By Patricia Leidl, with Jean-Luc Martinage | Published in The Magazine of the Red Cross

Fifteen years ago, doctors delivered Hanna Nazarova a startling and unwelcome piece of news. At the age of 19, she was officially HIV positive. As well as letting her know that her long-term prognosis was pretty much non-existent, officials made her sign a form acknowledging her HIV status and that she was aware that transmitting the virus to anyone else was punishable by law.

Prevention campaigns and the conservatism of Belarus’s creaky public health apparatus only confirmed her grim prospects. “At that time, I really felt my life was over and told myself that,” says Nazarova, who had been using drugs throughout her teenage years. The ensuing “dreadful years” passed in a blur. “Since I had only a few months to live, I decided to enjoy whatever time I had left.”

Nazarova descended further into her addiction.

Years passed and Nazarova — despite her own best efforts — lived. The antiretroviral (ARV) drugs introduced in Belarus soon after she learned of her status were working their peculiar brand of antimicrobial magic. Nazarova eventually kicked her addiction and is now open about her HIV-positive status, and works as a Belarusian Red Cross volunteer peer educator.

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