- Do you know what Sexually Transmitted Diseases are?
- Can you mention them?
- What do you consider is the most dangerous?
- Do you know any person infected by the HIV?
- Do you know about the methods to avoid getting STDs?
- What does our government do with HIV infected people?
- Do they have to pay for the medicines and the treatments?
For the first time in the 20-year history of the AIDS epidemic, more women than men have been infected with HIV. Globally, women now account for more than 50 per cent of those infected due to a host of socio-political, cultural and biological reasons. These stories by women from around the world aim to highlight what it means to be a sexually active HIV positive woman.
Violeta was born in La Paz, Bolivia, and was diagnosed with HIV in May 2000.
“When I was younger, no one ever spoke to me honestly about anything related to sex and sexuality, so I learned most of what I know in secrecy.
When I was 20 years old I was raped. I suspect the two men responsible for doing this also infected me, but they were strangers and I never met them again. Being a rape survivor damaged my self image for a long time and the impact of that experience on my sexual life was enormous. I felt destroyed and I engaged in sex without any caution or care for myself. I wanted to die. Three years after I was raped I discovered I had HIV.
I have never been pregnant, so I don’t know what it feels like, but I am conscious that for me becoming a mother is more complex than for women who are not living with HIV. I want very much to have a baby, but I want to be confident he or she will be okay in every sense.
The future feels uncertain and I do not dwell on it. I prefer to concentrate on the present – I am alive today and I will live today to the full. Tomorrow will bring its own problems. In my ideal future, I dream of being the mother of two beautiful babies, married to a loving husband and working in a relevant HIV organization.
Asha is 28 years old. - She was born in Kathmandu, Nepal, where she still lives. She was diagnosed with HIV eight years ago.
“Most of the HIV positive women in Nepal are widowed and/or abandoned by their family. This means they have a lot of worry apart from their sexual and reproductive health. Staying alive and keeping safe are their main concerns. In my case, two years after my diagnosis I married an HIV positive man. Even though I would like to have a child, I will not. Before, I was frightened that without access to Nevipirine to prevent mother-to-child transmission the baby would be infected. Even though Nevipirine has recently become available in Kathmandu, I am still afraid I would have an unsafe delivery because of my poor health. The other problem is that my husband and I could not afford a baby-it is already hard enough for the two of us to survive. In any case, I have become very weak and I’ve also developed an allergy to most of the food I can afford to buy.
The constant need to monitor and take care of one’s health is impossible for most HIV positive women in Nepal, including me. Taking proper care of my health is far too costly.
My life changed forever the moment I was diagnosed with HIV. I don’t have any great plans now, but as long as I am alive I want to do something to help other HIV positive women in Nepal.
Susan is 35 years old. She was born in London, England. She is twice divorced and currently cohabiting with her partner of three years. She has two children aged 10 and 12. She was diagnosed in January 1999.
“I’m conscious of the fact that I’m very lucky. I live in a country where I have free access to treatment, unlike the majority of women living with HIV in other parts of the world. I was also diagnosed at a time when anti-retrovirals were available for treating HIV effectively, so I’ve never had to face the feeling that my diagnosis was an inevitable death sentence.
I imagine my dreams and desires regarding my reproductive and sexual health are very similar to women who are not living with HIV. I aspire to have lots of sex in the future, despite gravity and age beginning to have an alarming impact!
I hope that my HIV status does not affect any possible future sexual relationships, although ideally I plan to have a very long term relationship with my current partner.
I don’t believe the fact that I happen to be living with HIV should be a barrier to having sexual relationships. I have never been rejected by a sexual partner because of my HIV status, but I was fearful about disclosing my status to my current partner when we first starting seeing each other.
We always endeavor to use condoms when we have sex. I must confess that the one time we slipped up I became pregnant so far the pregnancy has gone without incident. I didn’t need to change my HIV medication and because I have an undetectable viral load the risk of transmitting HIV to my baby is less than one per cent. I don’t intend to have any more children after I give birth. This has nothing to do with my HIV status- it purely concerns my age.
1. From the text
a) Did Violeta know anything related to sex and sexuality when she was young?
b) How did Violeta acquire the HIV virus?
c) What was her reaction after being raped?
d) What is her dream for the future?
e) What is the situation of most HIV positive women in Nepal?
f) What does it mean to them?
g) Does Asha have the same problem? Why?
h) Can Asha and her husband have a child? Why?
i) How is her health state?
j) What does she need to take care of her health?
k) Where is Susan from?
l) Why does Susan say she is very lucky?
m) How does she feel living with HIV?
n) What are her dreams and desires to the future?
2. Write a small paragraph comparing Violeta’s, Asha’s and Susan’s situation taking into account the country where they live, their way of life and their dreams and desires.