Response stories

The road to acceptance: the story of Eraj from Tajikistan

National REActors were approached by Eraj (name changed), a 46-year-old man living with HIV. The client had a history of injecting drug use and had been incarcerated. He heard about REActors from an acquaintance with whom he attends an opioid substitution therapy (OST) program. Eraj said he learned of his HIV status in prison in 2019 and has not taken antiretroviral therapy (ART) since then due to negative information about the medication. Having recently left prison, he had already been attending drug treatment and receiving substitution therapy for two weeks. The doctor strongly recommended starting HIV treatment, but Eraj was not ready due to negative beliefs. 

But the main reason for turning to REActors was stigma and discrimination from his family. Eraj was given a small room and separate utensils, and his children were forbidden to go near him. His mother constantly reminds him of his past as a prisoner and drug user, fearing that he may infect the whole family. The family does not believe his words as he has often lied to them. Eraj asked REActor to talk to his family to dispel myths about HIV and explain the importance of treatment. He said he could no longer tolerate this attitude and hoped for help.

The REActor listened to the man and gave him full information about HIV, AIDS, and ART, explaining the importance of starting treatment. She explained about her organization and services, offering to visit his home to talk to his family. The REActor asked the man to discuss with his mother first to ensure that the family was ready to talk. Three days later, the paralegal visited their home where all family members were gathered. She introduced herself and explained what HIV is, how it is transmitted, and why ART is vital. Eraj’s brother asked questions about substitution therapy, expressing his displeasure that it was also a drug, and blamed him for the problems. The REActor explained that OST is a legitimate form of treatment and that HIV can be controlled with ART. She asked the family to support Eraj through the process, warning that without help he could relapse. The family eventually decided to give Eraj another chance on the condition that he start treatment and work on himself.

A week after the visit, the REActor called Eraj to see how he was doing. He reported that he had started taking ART, was visiting the OST site, came home on time, and his brother had arranged for him to work as a construction assistant. He was happy that life was getting better and thanked me for the help.

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