was extremely spread in Russia. People got infected
either as a result of unsafe sexual relations
or drugs or not single-use syringes," says
31-year old Aram Hakobyan. "Many people used
the same spoon for drugs, sometimes even the drug
itself was already infected.
"Leaving off using drugs requires super-human
efforts, it was almost impossible. And in that
environment I already had deep suspicions that,
as a result of the life I led, I must have been
infected as well. And in reality everything turned
out exactly as I thought."
Aram Hakobyan got infected with HIV approximately
seven years ago in a Russian city where he, like
thousands of other Armenian young people went
for work. And like many others attracted by curiosity
he started to use drugs.
The years have passed after finding out that
he is infected with HIV and Hakobyan changed many
things in his life.
"Many times I tried to leave off using drugs
as such a way of living was exhausting. And in
order to overcome everything I needed enormous
will power. I always failed. After many years
of trying, one year ago I decided to return to
Armenia back to my parents.
"My parents were very sad when they learned
I had HIV. However they were encouraging me hiding
their sadness and anxiety and I managed to organize
my life. Gradually everything resumed its natural
course. My parents helped me."
Seven months ago Hakobyan quit drugs. Today he
has a job, friends, girlfriends and he thinks
about his future only with hope.
"I know people who have been living for
15 years after being infected with HIV. One must
just be careful. Everything can last longer if
you don't overindulge in alcohol, smoking and
drugs and if you lead a healthy life."
And Hakobyan and several thousand others in Armenia
(the official number is 2,200 but specialists
say the true number is much higher) with the virus
wait, he says "until the day when future
medicine appears and will help people to completely
get rid of that virus."
Until then, as anti-virus medicines used in HIV
cases haven't been imported to Armenia, Hakobyan
is trying to restore his strength with the help
of vitamin-enriched food -- vegetables, fruits
-- and everything that helps.
"I live a full life and I'm satisfied,"
he says. "I have friends who know about me
and they stay my friends. I have several girlfriends
and I don't exclude that in the nearest future
I will get married. I haven't decided yet. However,
only those closest to me know about my disease."
In every way Aram avoids telling casual acquaintances
about his disease, including nurses and doctors
in hospitals and dental clinics.
"First of all I find out whether medical
instruments are sterilized or not when I visit
a dentist and whether doctors work with sterilized
instruments or not. After that I say that I'm
sick with hepatitis C as in no case I can tell
that I'm infected with HIV. Maybe, the same doctor
won't tell anything in my presence, but later
the information will most likely be spread very
quickly and he will tell others."
Hakobyan recalls sadly the day he visited a doctor,
for reason unrelated to his illness.
"I informed him in advance about my problem.
I needed to talk to him about completely different
issues. I offered my hand to greet him, but he
took away his hand and refused to shake hands
"I think it is very important for people
to be greeted at least with a handshake. And in
many case it is the reason why I am careful concerning
the information about my disease. Because I want
to be favored with at least those signs of respect."
Aram doesn't blame himself for anything and he
is sure that in this life nobody is secure.
"You can visit a dentist and get infected
as it is possible they will not stick to the usual
norms of bacterial purification. People just seriously
"And in Armenia people think that virus
carriers are terrible people, who lead terrible
lives. And these days if many people know about
me, it is possible that I will lose my job just
the next day and many other pleasures that make
my life full.
"I fight for life and I'm satisfied with
my life, however, every moment can become crucial
for me and my entire life can be completely changed.
I don't want people here to know that I'm a virus
carrier. If I confide my secret to someone and
if he or she starts to tell everyone about me
I will most likely lose everything that I've reached
during many years. I don't want people to point
at me in the streets and keep out of my way. I
wouldn't want my neighbors to find out about me
as it would have changed all my life completely.
People just are not ready for that."