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A Match Made In An HIV Help Center

One of half a dozen HIV-positive couples who found love and marriage at a Tajik health and education center in 2017.
One of half a dozen HIV-positive couples who found love and marriage at a Tajik health and education center in 2017.

The Tajik NGO did not intend to play matchmaker when it established a way to provide legal assistance to HIV-positive women.

But that's precisely what the Network of Women Living With HIV has done, after leading at least a dozen HIV-positive people to love and marriage.

"Sometimes HIV-positive young men come here to seek advice about marriage and family, and they ask us to help them find a suitable partner among the women registered with our network," says the agency's head, Tahmina Haidarova, noting that numbers are exchanged only with the consent of each person.

While in name the center is for women, men are not excluded from taking advantage of its services. Most of the men who visit are aged between 18 and 35, and some are looking to find marriage partners among fellow HIV patients.

Often Ostracized

Some 700 women are currently registered with the network, which helps provide them with access to healthcare, education, and welfare or other assistance.

Haidarova says there are many young single mothers among them, often having been left by their husbands or ostracized by their families.She says many of the women want to rebuild their lives.

Tahmina Haidarova, head of the Tajik NGO Network of Women Living With HIV
Tahmina Haidarova, head of the Tajik NGO Network of Women Living With HIV

In 2017, six couples met and married through the Dushanbe-based NGO. Nozanin, who didn't want to give her full name, was among them.

Like many other Tajik women living with HIV, Nozanin claims she contracted the virus from her husband, who eventually left her.

Divorced and infected with a communicable virus that can develop into AIDS, Nozanin says she had no hope for the future.

Nozanin, who works as an adviser with the NGO, met her current husband when he came to the office in search of advice on marriage and family issues. While there he asked Nozanin to help him find a wife.

"I was busy finding a suitable match for him, but one morning he came in and proposed to me. I never thought I would find love again," says Nozanin, who at 40 is 10 years older than her husband.

The couple's dream now is to have healthy children.

Positive Impact

Specialists at the NGO say marriage and family plans have had a positive impact on their clients' health and mental well-being, giving them a new lease on life.

The men looking for a life partner at the HIV help center tend to be unconcerned if the woman has been previously married or already had children, Haidarova says. They want a good woman who is serious about marital life.

The women often want to make sure their suitor is not a drug addict and strictly follows doctors' advice in keeping healthy, she adds.

According to official statistics, the number of people infected with HIV in Tajikistan stands at 7,552 -- including 2,820 women -- in the country of some 8 million.

The national HIV-AIDS center says that 1,004 children have been born to HIV-positive mothers since 2004.Some 600 of those children were born without HIV.

The main problem in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Tajikistan is people's relatively low level of awareness about measures that can be taken to prevent the spread of infection.

Most of the women who get infected claim that they married HIV-positive men who knew their status but didn't disclose it.

Tajik authorities have now made it compulsory for men and women to undergo thorough medical check-ups and provide a medical certificate before getting married.

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by RFE/RL's Tajik Service correspondent Zarangez Navruzshoh

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