Survival for positive people

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Photo: library

Ivancho and Maryika are the main characters in the stories collected in “A Guide for Survival (or not) for Positive People.” It has been published by the Bulgarian Family Planning and Sexual Health Association. Authors of the book are “Collector of Fallen Souls” Milen Chavrov, a long-time activist working on the problems related to HIV/AIDS and patient rights and “Law Fairy” – Ivana Murdzhieva, consultant for the Hope against AIDS Foundation.

"The idea was to write tips for survival for people infected with the virus. But after long time of thinking about it, I decided that writing some inapplicable tips was not the best idea," Milen says.

"That is how the stories about Ivancho and Maryika emerged. The characters can be either poor or rich, VIPs, educated people or ignorant ones; people coming from little provincial towns or from a big city. But they all share the fate of those labeled. These are "people living with HIV," or "positive patients." Their fictitious stories are written with style that could be very funny if it did not fill us with sadness or some anger. It took 20 years to collect the stories and they show us truths about the lives of those ‘other’ people we do not want to know about. Those who are transferred as burden from hospital to hospital and who when waiting in front of the doctor’s office know they may not be accepted. These stories show us "the life of the positive people that becomes a string of complications, and this can happen to anyone." These are also stories of courage and desperation in combating the stigma that has not undergone a major change in our society over the decades. And not by accident after one of the sad stories the authors write that "any resemblance to real-life people and events is purely coincidental, just like similarities between this country and other European Member States."

"We are tired of seeing mothers who do not want to bring their children to the kindergarten because of a child whose mother might have been diagnosed with HIV.” We have seen doctors who do not want to operate in an emergency case because a person has HIV infection. This has happened even when it comes to life-saving surgery. We have seen how when HIV-positive people go to the doctor or dentist and say: ‘Keep in mind I'm HIV-positive and I am undergoing antiretroviral therapy,’ some doctors just show them the door. This shows how some medics, who are well-acquainted how a person could become infected, do not show any sympathy towards these people," says Professor Radka Argirova, head of the Bulgarian Society of Medical Virology and a member of the International AIDS Society, and adds:

"You all know about the science of epidemiology or infectious disease epidemiology. To this very day textbooks read that the basic principles for combating infectious diseases are: first, finding the cause; second, isolating the cause; and third, isolating the infected person, so as not to spread the disease. But what are we actually combating against? The virus or the infected person. Throughout our 30 years of experience, it seems we have been combating the people who have HIV. This should no longer continue."

It has already been 30 years since the first time a person was diagnosed with HIV in Bulgaria. In the world, every six seconds someone becomes infected with HIV. What is the situation in Bulgaria? According to data by the Ministry of Healthcare from November 25, 2016, some 88 percent of newly registered HIV-positive people in the country were infected through sexual activity. Since the beginning of the year, 193 people have been diagnosed with HIV. The total number of HIV-positive persons in Bulgaria is 2460. The number of infected men is more than 5 times greater than the number of infected women. Most of HIV-infected people in Bulgaria are aged between 30 and 39.

 

English: Alexander Markov


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