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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 December, 2003, 11:51 GMT
'People point their fingers at us'
As part of a BBC series on Aids, people living with HIV from around the world tell their own stories in their own words.

A drug addict prepares to inject
Dima says syringes used by addicts are often contaminated
Lena and Dima are drug addicts from Donetsk, Ukraine. They describe how they have lost their jobs but not their hope since contracting the virus.

Lena: When I found out that I had HIV, I was working as a cleaner in the school. That wasn't an easy job, but it was a job nevertheless.

One day I shared my problem with a young girl, a secretary, and she told the deputy headmistress. The deputy headmistress told me to come to her office and says to me: Lena, I'm sorry, but you must understand, we have children here. I didn't argue, although how could they have caught anything from me?

I didn't have sexual relations with them, I didn't share syringes with them. But she still said: Lena, please, hand in your notice. And I had to leave work and haven't been able to find another job since.

Dima: AIDS spread so quickly here because of the way the drugs are taken. In developed countries, they take drugs differently. Think of that Tarantino movie, Pulp Fiction. Remember how Travolta drove a car, had a spoon and a lighter? That's how they do it. He bought the dose, heated it up himself and injected it himself.

The image of the HIV-infected in our country is the image of the enemy
Our ways are different. There are places where you buy a drug that's already liquid. They hand over the syringe, and this syringe has usually already been used. You can buy it in the syringe already, or pick up a used one near the point. Because you so want to inject a dose you don't think about anything. Can you imagine the dynamic with which Aids spreads?

Lena: Once I fell over and injured my eye. I went to the hospital, but was treated abysmally by junior medical staff. For example, I went to the canteen, and the woman shouted so everybody could hear: "You, with Aids, if you don't bring your own bowl next time I won't give you any dinner."

Other patients kept staring at me suspiciously. My bed was in the corridor, because there wasn't room in the wards, and other women wouldn't let me in the ward to change.

Dima: Crowds gathered to look at her, pointed their fingers.

Lena: I didn't finish my course of medication there, just ran away. Finished it at home. Well, we've kind of got used to it now, if you can get used to it at all. At first it all was very shocking.

Of course, I only live in hope that I'll be still alive when they discover a medication. That's our hope. A human being cannot live without hope.

Dima: The image of the HIV-infected in our country is the image of the enemy. Your brethren journalists did a lot to create it, too. They try to change something now, but sometimes you read or hear such things that, well, they shouldn't report it like that. People already point their fingers at us.

The interviews with Lena and Dima were conducted by Svitlana Pyrkalo at the Ukrainian section of the World Service

The following comments reflect the balance of views we received:

This sad story illustrates, that at least one way of passing HIV could be blocked by lifting the ban on drugs. Lower prices will lead to better quality. Unfortunately there are too many vested interests to keep things as they are.
SK, Russia

Dear Lena and Dima - An ignorant world behaves in ignorance. Living positively you can transform and empower the hearts of many who too became victims of a cruel and ignorant people and institutions. Your life story touches many. Listening to such stories make us appreciate and honour people of great courage and good will. You are not alone in this struggle.
Shiju Paul svd, Zambia

I was very moved by this story and can't help but feel incredibly angry at the ignorance of others and the way that Lena and Dima were treated by them. To carry on living with a positive attitude is hard in even the most developed countries but to do what they have done in Ukraine is really commendable. Good luck.
Benjamin, Nambour Australia

Let us have hope for things we can currently cure
Thomas Moon, Toronto

This is a great exposure of tragic circumstances that are all too misunderstood. Many people have differences over the benefit of needle exchange programs, and safely monitored addiction centres, but having a drug problem can be overcome with much support and personal development. Let us have hope for things we can currently cure.
Thomas Moon, Toronto, Canada

It's very easy and possible to anyone make a mistake during his or her life. But we have to understand other's mistake or difficult situation. I'd like to pay my condolence to Lena and Dima. It's unfair that Lena lost her job only one reason due to infected HIV. Her schoolmistress should have done reasonable management, for example give her new task. It's very good Lena still has hope. I wish them happiness.
Han Gye Soo, Kwangju, S.Korea


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