I want to achieve the decriminalization of HIV in Tajikistan
To celebrate with you March 8, the International Women's Day 2020, we interviewed three activists, who are dedicated their work to women and HIV.
In the following we talked with Takhmina Khaydarova. Takhmina is the director of the NGO "Таджикистанская сеть женщин, живущих с ВИЧ" (translated: Tajikistan Network of Women Living with HIV - TNW Plus), based in Dushanbe.
Tell us a little about yourself: What's your name? Where do you live? Where do you work and in what field are you active in?
My name is Takhmina. Takhmina is a female name of ancient Iranian origin: the name of mother of a hero. Translated into Russian it means "brave", "courageous", and is widespread in Central Asia and Iran. I am from Tajikistan and live in Dushanbe. I work for the NGO "Tajikistan Network of Women Living with HIV". My work is to promote the rights and interests of women living with HIV in Tajikistan.
Why are you doing this?
The issue of women and HIV is acute in Tajikistan; the society, including higher-level decision-makers, thinks that all women living with HIV are women of easy behavior, sex workers or women who have been punished by God for something. The second important topic that motivates me to work in this area is Stigma and Discrimination against people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the society. The PLHIV who suffer most are women who have been infected with by their husbands, who are work migrants, intravenous drug users, or members of other vulnerable groups. These women are stigmatised and discriminated against on a daily basis: by their families, health care institutions, law enforcement agencies, and so on.
What exactly do you do in terms of activism?
I work with women living with HIV. I organise for them different trainings, initiate different research projects related to women and HIV. I am engaged in advocacy activities as well. I speak openly about women's issues at various levels, including in the media. One example is the conducting of a public opinion survey and preparation of an alternative thematic report in the context of HIV. I spoke at the 71st session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and our activities were taken into account, our main recommendations were submitted to our government for consideration.
In 2019, with the support of AFEW International, women living with HIV in Tajikistan conducted a research project for the first time on "Key issues of sexual and reproductive health of women living with HIV in Tajikistan through the prism of human rights". This was our first experience on such a project and we managed. I also maintain relationships with all governmental and non-governmental bodies on women and HIV.
What do you want to change and where do you see the gaps?
I want to change the expectations society has about HIV and women. HIV is no longer a death sentence; it is a chronic disease that can be controlled with ART. PLHIV can live happy and long lives. My second mission is to fight HIV criminalisation at the legislative level. Today there are gaps in the Penal Code, the Administrative Code, the Family Code and the Health Code that limit the opportunities for people living with HIV. These gaps seriously impact the lives of women and girls living with HIV.
What positive changes have you achieved in your work?
Women living with HIV are respected and visible within and beyond our country. Through our report to CEDAW, we have ensured that our voice will be heard and that the state has received recommendations on HIV policy. We have also conducted research on SRH and are now actively promoting our recommendations to include them to the National HIV Programme for 2021-2025.
What has been the highlight of your activism?
In 2018, when I participated at the UN CEDAW session, and thanks to my presentation on women's issues in the context of HIV, the government received a recommendation to decriminalise HIV. After this I felt that our work promoting these interests had not been in vain.
What positive changes in women's rights would you like to achieve by 2030?
I want to achieve the decriminalization of HIV in our country, so that all people, regardless of social status, become equal. So there will be no obstacles in personal life and in establishing families, so that people are not harassed because of their HIV status.