|First National Forum of Women Living with HIV Held in Tajikistan|
The First National Forum of Women Living with HIV, "Women in Tajikistan for a future without AIDS!," was held on May 23, 2011. The forum took place in Dushanbe and was hosted by the Tajikistan Network of Women Living with HIV (TNW+) and the Centre for Mental Health and HIV/AIDS (MHAIDS), a local NGO, with technical support from international organizations, such as UN Women and AIDS Foundation East-West (AFEW).
The purpose of the forum was to empower women living with HIV (WLH) through their participation in the societal process and decision-making. WLH were included in conversations discussing significant issues affecting WLH in Tajikistan, including one dialogue deliberating an alternative draft of the Tajikistan CEDAW report.
Aziza Khamidova, the National Project Coordinator of the UN Women Project Office in Tajikistan, said that the UN Women welcomes and supports this event and believes that this initiative is very important and necessary. UN Women plans to provide assistance and support to women affected by HIV throughout Tajikistan. Some of Khamidova’s first actions in Tajikistan was showing UN Women’s support in the creation of TNW+, and sponsoring this forum openly - a bold and courageous act.
In attendance at the forum were 19 members of TNW+ from three regions of Tajikistan: Dushanbe, Khatlon, and Districts of Republican Subordination. These leading women were able to represent the interests of women living with HIV across the country through their participation in this forum. The forum also featured representatives from UN WOMEN, AFEW, Act Central-Asia, International Labor Organization, Open Society Institute, UK Department for International Development, World Health Organization, as well as members of the Tajikistan government and local NGO’s, such as SPIN Plus, Center for Human Rights, the Dushanbe City AIDS Center, the Women and Family Affairs Committee, the Youth Affairs Committee, Municipal Health Department. The forum’s participants discussed problems women face in Tajikistan, particularly those problems which are related to their HIV-positive status.
For the first time, women living with HIV were given the opportunity to present their own reports and accounts of life as an HIV-positive woman in Tajikistan. Women living with HIV were able to reflect on the HIV-situation from their perspective, and provide insight to their needs on the public stage. They talked about topics such as access to HIV-services for women and children, stigma and discrimination, as well as women’s struggle to find employment as an HIV-positive woman. They were able to openly talk about their lives, and ask for help and support to all that were present. When they spoke about their lives, tears flowed from the eyes of all the participants as they listened to the first-hand accounts of the pain, suffering, and agony faced by these women and their children who were mostly infected by their husbands: migrants and drug users.
Many of the reports were very emotional as they shared stories of being migrant women. Some women recounted being infected by their spouses who had since died from AIDS, leaving them alone to handle all the hardships of life. These women faced violence, threats, and blackmail by relatives and friends, as well as by health professionals and many others.
Another participant, Bobosadykova G.B, presented very important information about the process for preparing an alternative CEDAW report drafted by civil society representatives. She noted that the Gender Coalition, which includes more than 95 organizations, will be preparing an alternative report and suggested that the TNW+ should join the process. She suggested that TNW+ provide their comments and recommendations specifically on chapter 12 of the convention, which speaks about HIV/AIDS. Munira Shamsieva, the representative of the Women and Family Affairs Committee under the President of Tajikistan, also has actively supported Women Living with HIV. She said that the Committee is ready to cooperate with TNW+.
The forum was completed by leaders of the TNW + discussing organizational issues such as upcoming plans and activities' priorities. Participants decided that they would make an active effort to help and support women living with HIV, and a working group agreed that they would prepare a draft resolution to propose to all interested persons and organizations within the country and globally.
Tajikistan's Network of Women Living with HIV and the Centre for Mental Health and HIV/AIDS are grateful to all participants and especially UN Women and AFEW for supporting the forum.
The Creation of Tajikistan’s Network of Women Living with HIV (TNW+)
At the forum an employee from the Center for Mental Health and HIV / AIDS (MHAIDS) held a presentation about the establishment of the Tajik Network of Women Living with HIV (TNW+). They detailed the first meeting of TNW+, the creation of action teams, and support that TNW+ received from Act Central Asia. The idea to create TNW+ came from a woman living with HIV who participated in the International Conference on HIV/AIDS in Vienna, Austria in 2010. Upon her return, a group of women initiated the creation of TNW+ using frameworks from other positive women’s networks such as the Europe and Central Asia WECARE+ and Women with HIV at the Center for Mental Health and HIV/AIDS. With the support of Act Central Asia, in the fall of 2010, TNW+ was created on the first extended session of women living with HIV. Forty women with HIV were participants of the meeting and all of them became part of TNW+.
AFEW supported TNW + by financing a project network entitled Scaling-up Efforts to Support the National HIV Strategy. The project was implemented with financial support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. TNW+ began active work, and now, more than 45 women infected with HIV and their children from Dushanbe, RRS, and Kurgantyube are members of the TNW+. Additionally, more than 20 new women expressed desire to join the TNW+ during the last quarter.
The Centre for Mental Health and HIV/AIDS has not only supported TNW+, but has also assisted many other initiative groups over the past four years of activity. Two new PLHIV organizations, ORZU+ in Kurgan-Tube and Trust in Dushanbe, were established over the last year. The Centre for Mental Health and HIV / AIDS has also opened a medical center which provides free services for all people infected with HIV. The medical center is open to all NGOs, and it is staffed with six doctors and six women living with HIV who are working side-by-side. This is the only functioning medical center run by an NGO in Tajikistan. TNW+ leaders involved in the project also provide services: peer counseling for HIV-infection, a counseling helpline, help and social support, home care, the provision of infant formula for babies of HIV-positive mothers, provision of informational materials and prevention contraception such as condoms, as well as referrals to the partner organizations providing food, clothing and medicines.
By Manizha Haitova, MD, published July, 25, 2011
Director, Center on Mental Health and HIV/AIDS (MHAIDS) & Executive Director, Association of Adult Education in Tajikistan (AAET)
For more information on TNW+ please visit the official website here or contact Dr. Haitova: