Lyuba is a happy 30-year-old, who likes ice-skating, coffee with friends and going for walks with her seven-year-old daughter Yanna.
But a few years ago, her life was very different. Lyuba was a drug addict for ten years, and her husband died of an overdose.
Five years ago, Lyuba found out she was HIV-positive. She was heartbroken.
And, because Lyuba lives in Russia where it’s difficult to get support if you are HIV-positive, she felt as though she had nowhere to turn.
‘Doctors treated me as though I were a leper,’ she says. Without proper medical help, Lyuba became very ill.
Eventually, she became so sick that she couldn’t walk. She kept fainting, and so she had to stay in bed.
While she was lying in bed, unable to walk, she reached the end of her tether. Depressed and full of fear, she decided that she needed to change her life so that she could bring up Yanna.
She didn’t know how to make that change, but a friend told her about Tearfund partner Salvation Centre in Asbest, Russia.
Salvation Centre is one of a small number of rehab centres run by churches and Christian organisations in Russia, helping people to withdraw from drug addiction and to rebuild their lives.
‘But now that I’ve been through rehab, I know that God accepts me with HIV and I have no fear. I have feared sickness and death, and have come through that.Lyaba
My daughter was the reason I came to rehab and stopped taking drugs,’ says Lyuba. ‘I didn’t know Yanna very well at all, because her grandparents had been bringing her up while I was sick and using drugs. I was full of fear that I wouldn’t be a good mother.
‘At first, Yanna only really knew me as a drug user. It took a while to get to know each other again.
‘But now that I’ve been through rehab, I know that God accepts me with HIV and I have no fear. I have feared sickness and death, and have come through that.
‘I believe that, through the help I’ve received from Salvation Centre, God has healed me. When I came here, I was very sick and now I am fit and well. I see God in that.’
Now, Lyuba and Yanna live together in Salvation Centre and Lyuba runs the kitchen. She wants to train to be a nurse, and Yanna wants to be a doctor. Their relationship is restored.
And that’s something that Lyuba now wants to pass on to others.
‘I want to help people here; to comfort them, listen to them, pray for them,’ says Lyuba.
Our work with HIV and AIDs
Millions of people are HIV+ or have friends or family members who live with HIV.
For many of them, life is good. Thanks to the hard work of Tearfund and other organisations, as well as the UN, governments and local health services in many countries, many people are able to get hold of the medication they need, usually without having to pay for it.
For some people, the struggle continues.
Tearfund have worked with local churches in Russia for ten years to help them reach out to people affected by HIV. We have commissioned the first ever set of research into the links between sexual abuse and drug addiction in Russia, and we’ve found that one in five women who use drugs in Russia was sexually abused as a child.
Our hearts break for women who live with the trauma and shame of sexual violence, especially in places like Russia where there is a lot of stigma and it’s hard to get help.