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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 December, 2003, 12:34 GMT
'One day I'll fall in love'
As part of a BBC series on Aids, people living with HIV from around the world tell their own stories in their own words.

Publicity from the film One Night Stand
'Life isn't a dress rehearsal' is the line from One Night Stand that stays with Natasha

Natasha from Russia has found her calling in life since being diagnosed with HIV.

I'm 19 years old, although there are times when I feel like I'm at least 30.

A year ago I found out that I was HIV-positive.

To say that I was shocked would be a big understatement. At that time I was still a child. Now I feel as though I've lived through a war - a war with myself, inside myself, with my virus.

I think that you can compare HIV to a ghost or a spirit - something that you can't see but that scares people and makes them say that they don't believe in it.

Ages ago I watched this film. It was called One Night Stand.

I never thought at that time that one day the same thing would happen to me.

One phrase from the film sticks in my mind, and it's become my slogan: "Life isn't a dress rehearsal."

I think that says it all.

Where I was meant to be

Stress, or illness, changes you. Some people change for the better, some for the worse. In my case I think I've changed for the better.

I've got an aim in life now. For more than six months I've been working as a volunteer for two organisations.

One is a helpline for people with HIV and Aids. I tell them there are treatments now that prolong your life, that enable you to live a normal life with HIV.

I want to dedicate my life to people who need help - I'd like to be a psychologist

Most people don't know that. I didn't know it myself.

I hear people's voices at the other end of the line saying things like: "Thank you, I wanted to go and jump off the roof but now after talking to you I realise that things aren't so bad, that you can live with HIV, that I can think about tomorrow, that I might be able to have children."

When I hear people say those kind of things to me, it means more than any money, qualifications or medals ever could.

I think I've found the place I was meant to be.

I think that HIV came into my life so that I could save other people. Well that sounds a bit over the top - what I'm trying to say is so that I could help other people.

If you ask me about my hopes and aims in life then I suppose I'd say that I want to dedicate my life to people who need help. I'd like to be a psychologist.

And, you know, like any normal girl of my age I dream that one day I'll fall in love, I'll meet my other half - and he will be someone who will love me for myself, despite the virus inside me.

For him I'll be just me - Natasha - and fear won't be a barrier to our happiness.

The interview with Natasha was provided by the BBC Russian service.

The following reflect a balance of the comments we received:

It's wonderful that you have taken something so difficult and made it so positive
Ruari Johnson, Glasgow

Natasha, reading what you had to say was very moving. I have spent a great deal of time attempting to live life as I know I should, and have always found it very challenging. For whatever reason it always seems far easier to hide behind familiarity and comfort and dream of being someone or something than to actually break these patterns and do that of which the dreams are made. Although there may, to some degree, be a sad lining to your cloud, it's wonderful that you have taken something so difficult and made it so positive. And I have no doubts that one day; you shall meet the love of your life. I only hope that he is deserving of you.
Ruari Johnson, Glasgow, Scotland

My prayers and good wishes are all with you Natasha. With your braveness and positive attitude, it is my own belief that you can come victorious against the virus and help others in the process (as is the case already, since helping others). With every story that I see, about people brave enough and defiant of often ill-conceived stigmas, I feel part of the fight against HIV is won.
Ibrahim Ali, Lahore, Pakistan/Somalia

Hi Natasha, I believe that because of people like you, speaking so openly about their status and making people aware, we have a very good chance of fighting the Aids virus. Your courage speaks for itself!
Christopher van Opstal, Sydney, Australia

Courageous young woman is what I will call you
Rahul Bhatnagar, New Delhi

Courageous young woman is what I will call you. Since my country is also facing this illness, I would sincerely hope to see more Natasha's everywhere to take up the mantle and stand up to it. I hope you have a beautiful life ahead. All the best in what you are doing.
Rahul Bhatnagar, New Delhi, India

It's amazing to hear that from a young woman like you. I thought this situation only happened in Africa where the killer virus is almost wiping out some parts. I'm sad that you are positive and am sad that it happened this way but on the other hand I'm happy because you have courage, and hope. We in Africa wish you well and hope there will be a cure soon. Best wishes.
Jeff, Nairobi, Kenya

Thank you for your interview Natasha. After reading it, I have realised that those that are positive are just like those that are not. They too can fall in love. You are young Natasha. There is more to life.
Teldah Mawarire



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