A group of nine inspirational young women born with HIV recently came together at UNAIDS headquarters in Geneva to share their experiences and to build a foundation for work in the future. The gathering was part of a broader agenda to promote and protect the human rights, especially the sexual and reproduction health and rights, of all women living with HIV. This is their message to the world which they would like to share on the first ever International Day of the Girl Child.
We are the first generation of babies born and to grow up living with HIV. Today, we are young women with dreams for our communities which we come from and the world we want to create. Telling our story is difficult but we use our personal experiences to change, impact and shape the world we live in.
As unique as we are, we are growing up to be wives, lovers, mothers, caregivers, mentors, professionals, and world leaders. We want to be alive, not just to live, but have a right to whole-full lives as girls and women filled with desires, aspirations, sexualities and emotions. To achieve our dreams we need a fair, protective and supportive world; we refuse to live in isolation.
Whether the world likes it, we are sexual beings and have a right to have babies. We are willing to take on the responsibility to go through a tough process to become pregnant, carry our babies for nine months and deliver them safely and healthy. We are determined to do what it takes to keep our children healthy and free of HIV for the rest of their lives. To achieve this we need accessible, on-going quality health care and services that cater to our choices and decisions. We want HIV to stop with us.
We live in communities filled with discrimination and prejudices that comes in all forms. First and foremost, our health care setting is filled with doctors and nurses who are still misinformed and uninformed, and they carry their own prejudices and judgments against us. We demand that our families be supportive and invest in our lives. The final decision to disclose our HIV status belongs to us and only us, not to our families, partners, friends, health care providers or educators. As much as we are HIV positive, we are still sisters, aunts, mothers, and grandmothers of nations. The world is blind and ignorant that we are growing up with HIV and becoming adults, and our communities, including the HIV community, have not yet accepted us as young women born with HIV.
We deserve to love and to be loved. Love free of abuse, emotional torture, unfair treatment; rather love which is compromising, dignified, compassionate, kind and empowering. Together as partners we can share the responsibility to keep each other safe; we don’t pass HIV to our partners and they don’t pass any sexually transmitted infections to us and together we don’t infect each other. Communication is vital for healthy partner relationships, respect and trust.
We have solutions and we are the future. Together, we stand tall and fight as one.
Cristina, USA / Grissel, USA / Kristofina, Namibia / Juliana, Kenya / Lweendo, Zambia / Maryliza, South Sudan / Matilda, UK / Maureen, UK / Yana, Ukraine