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MAMA+: Helping HIV-positive Women Rebuild Their Lives
A poster reminds women that domestic violence cannot be tolerated, and offers a number to call for support.
When Valentina, an HIV-positive resident of St. Petersburg, Russia, realized she needed help, she was 34 and expecting a child. She had contracted HIV a few years earlier from her late drug-abusing husband. At the time, she was living with her new partner, her parents and her younger sister. There was drug abuse in the house. Valentina was deeply depressed, concerned about her life and her unborn child’s health. She was struggling financially as well.
Valentina contacted MAMA+, a programme run by a Russian non-governmental organization Doctors to Children with the support of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women. Through MAMA+, Valentina was able to access psychological, social and material support, prepare for delivery, and learn parenting and child-rearing skills. When her daughter was born, she was happy to learn that the baby had not contracted HIV. Her health also stabilized, and she was able to begin improving her living conditions and life outlook.
An estimated 40,000 people with HIV live in St. Petersburg. Until recently, HIV-positive mothers in Russia’s second largest city had few options when it came to seeking protection and support. Public services were unable to respond to growing demand. Many women could not access the forms of health, legal, and social support they needed.
After giving birth, Valentina sought help once again. Her partner had become very violent. “The worst thing was that our little daughter was constantly exposed to danger, living between two fires,” she recalls.
She turned to MAMA+ for assistance, and was soon able to move to the programme’s Halfway House for Women with Children in Difficult Life Situations. This helped her regain control of her life. “With psychological support