During these past days I have been quite focused on learning more about HIV. I knew what a common person exposed to Western information would know – ways to get it, importance of testing, so-called ‘risk groups’ and some detailed stufffrom the training on sexuality for teenagers I used to run.
HIV got closer when my 22-year-old close friend told me that he was positive. Then I started to really think more on the issue, it used to be my phobia that he’d get it because he is from one of these so-called ‘risk’ groups. At some point I got to know over 30 HIV-positive people in one day at a training, it turned out they were facing issues very similar to what LGBT people, myself including, are facing in everyday life – isolation, fear of telling about their status and lack of access to services. I was walking from the office to the center with one of staff members of a grassroots NGO and he told me that sometimes people can test positive for syphilis and HIV if they had a lot of alcohol within 18 hours before the test. He also told me about outreach work with sex workers and where in Bishkek the street sex workers stand. I was amazed by how much he knew and the outreach the organization had.
Just recently I took part in assessing NGO concepts of involving HIV-positive people in decision-making with people from mostly international organizations and medical organizations on the committee. I could sense the difference in approach. The community NGOs stressed that people need peer-to-peer support, care and somebody to talk to. The usual HIV decision-makers emphasized the need for space in the hospitals, teaching HIV-positive people ‘how to’ and making space for HIV-positive people in the hospitals or local AIDS centers. This is so similar to linking women only with family (with state bodies called ‘department on family, women and children’) and LGBT people with only HIV. People in power having no clue about what the communities need and care for and designing multi-million programs.
Right now I also know people from organizations working on HIV prevention and groups organized by HIV-positive people in Kyrgyzstan. A lot of excellent work with communities directly being involved in making decisions about programs. There are some NGOs which could not survive recent round of donor financial auditing which lead to gossips within the NGO community. Corruption in NGOs is another story to talk about on this blog at some point. Donors supporting HIV projects coming from organizations which usually work on trafficking and donor policies is another issue I want to mention one day.