Armenia: Gaining a New Perspective Toward HIV
November 19, 2010—United Methodist Committee on Relief in Armenia (UMCOR Armenia) is combating the spread of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) by raising awareness in local communities, increasing access to screenings and treatment through mobile medical teams, and training local healthcare practitioners.
“Oh my poor children, they will become orphans soon!” This was the painful and fearful response from Dalita*, a mother of three children who just tested positive for HIV at a voluntary HIV testing event in Armenia.
In Verin Dvin, a small remote village located in the mountains of Ararat province, people like Dalita live in extremely poor socio-economic conditions, where there is a high concentration of registered HIV cases among the population. People in Verin Dvin tend to avoid HIV testing because of the social stigma related to those with HIV/AIDS.
UMCOR Armenia’s Prevention and Control of HIV, STIs and TB program is providing comprehensive HIV testing and counseling services through its mobile medical teams to help people like Dalita live healthy lives, while gaining new perspective about their newly-learned HIV status. The program, funded by UMCOR and the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund, provides on-the-job capacity building training for its healthcare workers, who increase community access to screenings and treatment, targeting at-risk populations in remote villages like Verin Dvin. This year, UMCOR Armenia served 10 villages through 146 trained health volunteers, and six villages through its mobile medical teams.
Hope for Dalita’s Future
Before she was tested for HIV, Dalita confided in an UMCOR trainer, saying that she suspected her husband had suffered and died of AIDS. Dalita was worried about herself and her children’s future when her own health condition worsened. Initially, she refused to go to the local clinic because she did not trust the nurses to keep her status confidential. She feared that her whole community would find out about her condition. What’s more, Dalita could not afford to go to a regional hospital to be tested for the virus. The UMCOR trainer advised Dalita to see UMCOR’s mobile medical team for a confidential and free consultation and HIV test. Her positive status was later re-confirmed at the National Center on AIDS Prevention (NCAP), where fortunately, they learned that Dalita’s children did not have HIV.
Millions of people around the world who have HIV continue to live healthy lives with the help of antiretroviral treatment (ARV). Dalita is among that number receiving ARV therapy and is under permanent observation of NCAP specialists and UMCOR mobile medical team doctors. During an UMCOR follow-up visit to the village, Dalita said she felt much better and was very grateful to UMCOR’s project and doctors who helped save her life. She now feels confident and optimistic about her family’s future.
“People visiting UMCOR’s mobile medical teams realize that they should not avoid knowing their health status,” said Dr. Viktoria Avakova, UMCOR’s Health Coordinator. “The earlier the disease is diagnosed the higher is the effectiveness of treatment.”
UMCOR Armenia’s training on disease prevention is changing people’s attitudes towards HIV. They gain practical knowledge about disease transmission, effective preventative measures, healthy sexual behavior, and are hopeful for their future.
How You Can Help
Learn more about UMCOR Armenia here and observe World AIDS Day, Dec. 1 by supporting projects like these that are helping to reduce fear and stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. Visit UMCOR’s World AIDS Day resource web page for downloadable resources and give to the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund, UMCOR Advance #982345.
*Name has been changed.