Update: Audio testimony
First person testimony given to UNDP 3rd EECA Judges Forum, 11 November 2021 (Voice of interpreter)
She was given a two year suspended sentence and is no longer allowed to work as a hairdresser.
TASHKENT, October 28 – Sputnik, Anna Zhelikhovskaya.
Shortly before the introduction of quarantine in Tashkent, an investigation began on the case of 52-year-old Natalya (name has been changed. – Editor’s note), a single mother who works as a hairdresser and colourist. The woman is a professional master all-rounder with over 20 years of experience in this field. She was charged under article 113, part 4 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan “The spread of a venereal disease or HIV infection / AIDS” – knowingly endangering or getting infected with HIV / AIDS.
In 2014, the List of professional activities prohibited for persons infected with the human immunodeficiency virus was updated. It included, in particular, the profession of a hairdresser associated with cutting and shaving. Natalya’s story began in 2017, when the director of the beauty salon where she worked sent employees to undergo, as it turned out, mandatory HIV testing.
“My test turned out to be positive. I realised that it was impossible, and retaken the analysis. I don’t know how I got through these days of waiting … The answer was again yes. The first thing I experienced was shock. Before that, I did not know anything about this disease I never came across him. Of course, the doctors talked to me, I registered at the Tashkent City AIDS Center, leaving all my data there, “the woman recalls.
She immediately started taking antiretroviral therapy (ART). This specific treatment helps patients block the virus, which means they do not put others at risk, live a full life, have a family and healthy children. For the next two years, she continued to work in the service industry, realising every day that management should know about her illness. Natalya explained the lack of a certificate to the director by the fact that she could not pay for the test at the moment.
“With the best of intentions, of course, he called the SES and asked if I could still not take the test, since I’m not a beautician, I don’t do tattoos and make-up, neither do manicure. I work with paints and cut my hair, mainly with a machine. replied that in this case, the test can not be taken, “- says the woman.
According to her, she did not report the test results to the director because she was afraid of losing her job. Raising a teenage child alone, a woman treasured her only source of income. In addition, Natalia had already learned enough about her illness and understood that with an undetectable viral load (the amount of virus in the blood), she was safe for others.
“Of course, I do not justify myself in any way. I had to report everything to the management and leave the profession. But I was scared, I was lost and did not understand what to do next, how to live now …”
In March 2020, a few days before quarantine, police officers came to the beauty salon with a purposeful check. According to the woman, one of them took her into a separate room and said that with such a diagnosis she was not allowed to work as a hairdresser. It was explained to Natalia’s colleagues and her management that the problem was in the medical book. At the same time, according to her, one of them reassured her, assuring her that there would be no trial, and she would limit herself only to a fine. However, an investigation soon began and the first court hearing was scheduled. Before the trial began, none of her colleagues and the director knew about the real reason for the audit.
“In a conversation with an operative, a doctor in the AIDS center, in the makhalla committee indirectly, not directly, but it was felt that I was suspected of indecent behaviour. To say that I was mentally and psychologically crushed is to say nothing. I am a believer, I walk to the church. For the trial, even my positive characteristics were provided from there, “recalls Natalya.