During my visit to Samara Laurence asked me to interview one of the Russian friends as ‘member of the month’ for our Constellation Newsletter. I chose to follow Alexei, he is a special person. The story below is the result of various conversations during the week and his contributions during the SALT visits.
I am Alexei, from Samara, Russia. I grew up in an addicted family: alcohol and drugs were always there. It was a hard environment for a child to grow up. I was at the point of dying when something in me decided things had to change. It was a long way, but I became clean, with the help of God and the people around me. I am very proud of that. But, as a result of this life I got all health problems that come with it: I became infected with HIV, and I got Hepatitis. I learned to cope with this. I have adapted a healthy life style and that means a lot to me. I recently learned that I have diabetes as well. Well, I know now I can handle that too!
My biggest pride are my wife and my two children. We adopted a child and now also have our own little boy. I am proud that I did not infect my wife and together we have a healthy son. He is 7 months now. He is a full copy of me. Sometimes I joke to my wife that she is my copy machine: that much he looks like me!
I know that my mission in life now is to help others. People helped me, now I want to help, not only those who are addicted to drugs or find out they have HIV, I know I can support any person that is going through difficult times, by listening and standing by. I was an inspiration for my own father who I have always known as a alcoholic – he is clean now. Wow, I am also proud of that!
But, hey, I am also a normal guy. I sing in a choir and I play theater. And when I argue with my wife, it is not about me being positive. We argue about who wakes up in the night to change the baby and about who will do the dishes!
Last month, with the support of UNAIDS, we had our first knowledge fair in Samara. We brought together people from various parts of society. We had also guests from Kazan, Moscou and Kiev, and coaches Ian, Sirinate and Marlou joined. The oblast of Samara knows an infection rate of 2.3 percent among the 15-49 years old. The highest rate in the whole of Russia!
For me this was a beautiful week. Together with Elena who is also a Constellation facilitator, we brought together our friends and actors from our city. With them we acknowledged that we are all human, that we can share and learn together and that we need each other to progress. During one of the SALT visits to disabled people I really admired how they help people and their families to accept their new life after an accident or illness that makes them dependent on a wheel chair. I will join their interactive trainings and I will bring this approach to people who find out they are HIV positive.
When I close my eyes and dream of the future for myself and for Samara I see myself, my wife and our children outside in front of a house. We are happy, playing, and the sun is shining. From our garden you can see the Wolga, beautiful and clean. There are other houses, and other happy families outside. My dream is that in that neighborhood we communicate, collaborate and take care of each other. That is what Samara can be like and I am determined to contribute to that.