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BBC TwoThis World


Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 November 2005, 16:58 GMT
Rustem: 'I saw my friends dying'
Living Positive follows six HIV-positive people, each of them on the same day, in six different parts of the world.

Thursday, 1 December 2005
BBC Two, 2100 GMT

Rustem is originally from Uzbekistan. He came with his father to the Ukraine when he was a young boy, but was subsequently separated from him.

"When we came to Odessa my father was working and we were together," says Rustem. "But then he met my stepmother and he sent me to an orphanage when I was 10 years old.

"What happened there was terrible. They would lock up people in a punishment cell for being naughty. I was put there almost every day.

"I escaped from the orphanage and I went to see my dad. But he was not there... he'd gone.

"I began living on the streets. I'd been wandering the streets by myself for a year, then I met one person who was sniffing glue.

"I spent about three months with him and I would not sniff - though he would offer it to me - because I did not want to do it. Then I tried it, and did not like it. Then I tried another time and again did not like it... and after the third time, I liked it.

"I started sniffing and then smoking... no vice versa. First smoking then sniffing, and only then injecting."

Street life

In 2003, Rustem moved into a derelict house with other street children and lived there for about 18 months.

My friends... I saw them dying and got scared

"We take a concoction of drugs, put it in a glass, mix it, shake it and then pump it in and inject.

"The effect is very bad. You would lie for 15 minutes affected by the drug and then you feel terrible pain in your bones. They ache."

"The police didn't know about the house.

"But then they came here, and saw us injecting [drugs] and started to beat us up badly. They poured petrol through the window and set it alight.

Rustem injected drugs for 18 months and it was not until a close friend died of an overdose that he decided to get off the streets. He went to Way Home - a refuge for orphans and street children - where he now works as a volunteer, many of whom are HIV-positive.

"My friends... I saw them dying and got scared.

"I now go and talk to the street people and try to convince them not to inject, not to sniff glue and I talk to them a lot about Way Home, telling them to go there and talk," he says.

"But they do not always listen to me, they do not want to go there. They need to have spirituality, a special inspiration of the soul to come off the street, like me. I would not leave the streets until I lost my friend.

Not having documents feels like being the dust

"My friend was almost like a brother to me and I have lost him.

"They are used to a street life. The street gives them complete freedom. But the street changes people terribly.

"They start stealing. You cannot even feel the moment when you become so cruel that you tear the bags from women or beat people up.

Rustem has no official papers. He says this is the greatest difficulty in his life.

"Not having documents feels like being the dust. One cannot have a flat, a job, a car, or an official wife."

Living Positive was broadcast on Thursday, 1 December, 2005 on BBC Two at 2100 GMT.

A debate featuring the six people filmed for the programme was broadcast on Friday, 2 December, 2005 on BBC Four at 1900 GMT.

Country profile: Ukraine
02 Nov 05 |  Country profiles


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